Zinzy Waleson Geene

Hanging with Uncle Rosie ()


Inspired by Matthew Smith, my initial use of the Then concept was as an archive of my Now page. These days, it functions more as Piper Haywood’s Work page does: as a story of how I got to Now. Together, they make up the about page that I can never seem to finish.


I come from a long line of reluctantly-Catholic, loud, burgundian band geeks

In the Deep Dutch South, I learned to embrace the health benefits of making music, the forests of the German border, and the importance of charcuterie.

To account for the accent with which I speak English, I always tell people that Oprah was the only Black woman I knew growing up. It’s funny, sad, it’s true.

I’ve always had a knack for languages, though: learning how to read, write, and speak them (usually in that order), and later, how to command them into stories that nurture conversations.

I suppose that’s why I went on to study the letters

At Utrecht University, I dove head-first into literature and linguistics, specializing in narratology and comics studies, and running the absurdist student magazine BOMBOMMER. I graduated with a thesis on focalization in the comicized Dutch classic The Evenings.

I’ve been building things for the web since there were still five Spice Girls

Somehow I ended up in the school of humanities. How is this all connected, you ask? Well, naming things, of course. Parallel to my hopes of becoming a humanities PhD, I had been running a design studio since I was 18. Back then, building sites and helping out startups was an easy way to make money. Eventually, it’d come to mean more than just that.

The imposter syndrome self-taught designers and researchers may feel resonates very, very deeply with me. It wasn’t until 13 years in that I began feeling like a proper designer. I’ve found, though, that there is something very beautiful and effective in learning by solving your own problems. I suppose that’s also very much my learning style.

Speaking of learning styles, I’m neurodivergent

My understanding of how I work and what that means for my life is on a seemingly never-ending journey. Unlike what people often think when they meet me, I wasn’t blessed with a dust-free school career. I was put on the fast track for mathematics at age seven, but got bored and fannied my way through elementary school, wondering why I was so different.

At my edtech employer Leeruniek I always joked that I was the only person at the company who had experienced all levels of the Dutch educational system. My high school and college experiences were so deeply drenched in underachievement that putting them on LinkedIn would make me entirely unhireable. Luckily though, I eventually made it to university, where I found the pace that was right for me.