011: Member interview: Harry Keller

Hi lovely subscribers, how was your week? As we mentioned last Friday, we're dedicating four issues of this newsletter to introduce the people behind Village One - one person at a time, in no particular order, giving you a little glimpse into who we are and why we founded this cooperative. And if you liked our profiles and want to collaborate with us on a project, don't hesitate to reach out! We have some availability soon for projects and are always happy to jump on a call.

Posted on Mar 31, 2023; updated on May 02, 2024

In the second instalment, we're introducing Harry, who is always optimistic and energetic! Let's jump right into his interview! ⚡️

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, and what did you do before joining Village One?

Hi, I’m Harry, born, raised and still living in Berlin! At the age of eight my parents got me a used Macintosh, because they didn’t want me to play violent video games on Windows. So instead of Resident Evil I played through Photoshop and Quark X Press, creating little newspapers, and I guess, that was my first foray into design and tech. Later on, I studied computer science + media, worked in an old book shop and then briefly at the football magazine 11 Freunde. In 2011 I was very lucky to score an internship at design agency Edenspiekermann. Even though I’m a web developer, I’ve always worked alongside designers and I’m really a generalist at heart, having also been in the role of project and product management, as well as scrum mastering agile projects.

At Edenspiekermann I helped to build the digital team over four years and then joined a smaller studio, which was A Color Bright. I had a fantastic time there, but only stayed for a year because I got the opportunity to found a company of my own with a few friends and colleagues. That was diesdas.digital in 2015—I was a partner there for six years and we grew to 30+ people. In 2022 it was time for me to leave and focus more on the aspects of my work that I enjoyed, while dropping those that felt unfulfilling to me.

My favorite project I ever got to work on is My Country Talks, a platform for political dialogue, which started at ZEIT ONLINE and which was awarded the Jean Monnet Prize for European Integration, the Grimme Online Award and the IPRA President's Award. It’s still ongoing today, years after its inception in 2016!

Not much has changed between 1995 and 2022.

2. What motivated you to join the Village One Co-op?

I enjoy the autonomy that comes with self-managed work and being my own boss, but over the years I learned about myself that I really never wanted to be anyone else’s boss - I guess employment too often felt like exploitation to me, so I was looking for a more natural, more equitable and more collaborative way to run a company. When I read about cooperatives I got really excited, because this structure empowers everyone in a democratic setup and distributes power more equally throughout the organization. Founding a co-op really seemed like the perfect fit for a small creative company. Longer version here.

I essentially took a hard look at all the learnings about myself and knowledge work I gathered in a decade of working in tech, then luckily found other folks who had similar thoughts and we distilled it down to a vision for a new kind of organization: one that is more opinionated, collaborative, equitable and focused. And that’s Village One! It’s really an evolution and continuation of everything that came before for me.

3. How does your work day usually look like?

My natural chronotype is definitely owlish, but I trained myself to rise somewhat early, so I get up around 7:30am, long shower first, followed by coffee, then take our little dog Freddy for a walk, landing at my desk around 9 AM. I usually start the day with some admin work, like replying to messages; I need a clean slate before I dive into more focused work.

From 9:30 to noon I try to get 2hrs of deep work or meetings done. I take a break until 2 PM for lunch, but I usually keep thinking about work in the back of my mind, as I find it hard to switch off my brain once it has latched onto a challenge. Usually I have the best ideas away from the desk, so I try to make time for that during the work day.

Around 2 PM I get back to the computer, for another deep work session until 5 PM. Then another dog walk, dinner, watch a movie, go to bed around 10 PM, followed by an hour of reading before hitting the pillow. This is of course all idealized, not many days actually go down neatly like this.

4. What do you do when you're not sitting in front of a computer screen?

Tricky question, lots of my time off work also happens in front of some screen: I read books, mostly on a Kindle. I play video games, mostly older Nintendo titles. I was addicted to Twitter before it all went to shit. I go for long walks in the forest with my girlfriend and Freddy. I don’t own a bike, so I walk everywhere. Sometimes this turns into hiking, especially on holidays in the UK or the Pacific Northwest (we’ve been to the UK so many times, I know it better than Germany). I run a book club on the side, over Zoom, so it’s on a screen, but I love the discussions we have with people from all over the world. I’ve been a vegetarian (and mostly vegan) for almost 20 years now, so I’m always curious to discover new vegan products and restaurants. I dig spicy food, the hotter the better, so the last couple of years I grew my own chilis on the balcony. You can find my photos on Pixelfed, taken with an old GameBoy Camera. I watch quite a few tv series: everything Star Trek, loved Fringe back in the day, as well as The Good Wife + The Good Fight, pretty much everything sci-fi, as long as its somewhat optimistic. I sometimes write a personal newsletter. I don’t have many other consistent hobbies, because I made my hobby my job, so now I’m kinda never working, but also kinda always working. Still haven’t figured out how healthy that really is, so do recommend your favorite off-screen activities to me! You can reach me under harry@village.one!

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest and hello Freddy!


5. Anything else you would like to share?

My favorite author is Octavia E. Butler (seriously, all of her writing is incredible, pick literally anything!) and she once wrote in one of her journals:

“All good things must begin”

The sentence stuck with me in its deceptive simplicity… did she mean that all good things have to begin somewhere, with somebody taking the first step? Or that all good things simply must begin soon, otherwise all hope is lost? We will never know, but I think of it often, and have a photo of her and that quote on my desk. Rest in peace, Octavia!

You can also find Harry here: Personal website, Newsletter, Mastodon, LinkedIn, Pixelfed

Stronger together: Come along for the ride!

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