Taking YesGraph in a New Direction

[Edit: since publishing this, we’ve Launched our new growth focused API. Check it out here!]

We’ve decided to take YesGraph in a new product direction. In this post I’ll cover what is changing, why it is changing, and say a little bit about what is coming down the road. If you want to jump ahead in line, go ahead and subscribe here to get updates about what is coming next.

We found that there were two kinds of users in YesGraph. Those that failed to onboard their team didn’t get their team’s referrals. Those that did, had a much higher volume of quality referrals. Unfortunately not enough people got that deep into the product.

So what went wrong? The core issue is that we asked teams to change the way they behaved, which is a challenge for product adoption. Recruiters want to fastidiously run their process without pushing out too much work to individual team members. This causes friction when trying to get the whole team more involved.

If we could keep access open and also build something new, we would. But we can’t risk our new direction with divided resources. In addition, it wouldn’t be fair to not support our current users with bug fixes and new features. So we’re going to allow 30 days from today for people to get their data out of YesGraph, and then access will be removed. We’ve removed any subscription paywalls, so everyone should be able to sign in to get access to all their data.

The best way to extract data from YesGraph is through the CSV export on each job page:


What’s coming next

We’re hard at working building a new service, but it isn’t about recruiting. It is a definitive continuation of our mission to connect people and companies with social data. If you want to learn more, subscribe to our mailing list here. 

We’re building something to help companies with growth. This is something I’ve been obsessed with over the last few years, so applying everything we’ve learned about social graph analysis to help other companies is really exciting. I’ll send out an update exclusively to that list within a few days. You’ll also find updates on AngelList here.

We hope to make this transition as easy as possible. Thanks for your feedback and help in building this together. We hope you’ll stick around to see what is coming next.


Subscribe to get future YesGraph posts here.


How To Crystalize Your Startup’s Mission

We recently distilled a mission for YesGraph, and I wanted to share the outcome and the process so that you can try it for your company.

For context, YesGraph has created a referral recruiting product that helps companies scale the most successful source of candidates, referrals. If you haven’t tried YesGraph yet, check it out, or get in touch for a demo.

The product is designed to be simple, and the steps involved are logical and easy to understand. You get your team to connect to Facebook or LinkedIn so we can organize and rank their contacts. This enables one-click referrals, which helps you scale that channel.

All that said, your product today isn’t your company’s mission.

You probably rightly focus on iterative improvements to make your product better. You listen to user feedback and run tests. Hopefully, you mercilessly cut that which isn’t going to help achieve your goal. But your current product and your near term road map are far too specific to make a great company mission. Especially for a startup, things change and evolve far too fast.

This isn’t bad. In fact, going through this process will help guide you to a place where you know enough to clarify your mission. Here’s how.

Isolate what won’t change about your company by abstracting away your immediate work. For YesGraph, the kernel within all our ideas is helping people perform better with good design and finding insight from data. This is sometimes surprisingly valuable with referrals, where we often illuminate parts of your network that didn’t come to mind.

To help refine your mission, start with adjacent ideas to what you’re building. YesGraph helps companies hire today, but what could we do to help job seekers? What if we built a way for people to find all the companies they are connected to, and how? Maybe we could be smart about how to get introduced to those companies. We’re seeing some interesting behavior elsewhere too, where some YesGraph users are generating sales leads through their network. Sales is really different from recruiting, and but the process we enable can be applied to both.

These ideas would take the company in a different direction. Explore where you’ll be over the very long term. What if we designed an applicant tracking system designed in the same fashion as YesGraph? We don’t plan on it, but over the long term, how would it be different? Or take peer review systems, which are clunky and don’t help employees grow and achieve their potential. One obvious improvement is to couple the data from performance reviews to your recruiting pipeline. It is a bit insane this isn’t easy or common already: the data about who does well at your company doesn’t inform how you hire more successful people.

To find your mission, combine your adjacent ideas and your longer term path, and extract what stays constant.

For YesGraph, we distilled our mission to this:

YesGraph connects people and companies with social data.

That’s it. It isn’t too fancy, and also not very precise. But if you understand our product and how we think about building it, you can clearly see the mission in our work. There are many other benefits, the most obvious is being able to convey our ideas clearly and succinctly.

Now it is your turn. I’d love to hear what people think about this process, and if you’ve come up with something valuable for yourself. Leave a comment here, or get in touch.

photo credit

Why YesGraph Changed Pricing from Seats to Tiers

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We recently updated our pricing to match how we see companies successfully using YesGraph. Previously, we had a flat $19 / seat / month to use our paid tier designed for your company. Now we’ve updated the pricing to better fit different sized teams, with fixed pricing for up to a certain number of members.

We’re also delighted to add a new free tier. If you have up to 10 members, you don’t need to worry about an expiring trial. As your team grows, you’ll grow with us and moved to a paid tier. You can get started creating a team, or check out the updated pricing page here.

free tier

For the paid tiers, we wanted to match how your organization values recruiting and referrals. We’ve made it incredibly easy and inexpensive to start out on a small team, and we grow from there. You might start with just a small group within your company, and then as you add people, we’ll scale with you.

paid tiersWith our previous pricing per seat, we found people hesitated to invite their whole team. That doesn’t match one of the most important lessons we’ve learned in recruiting. If you want to scale referrals you need to get the whole company involved. By updating our pricing, we’re matching that best practice with how customers value our product.

It also matches how the product works. YesGraph makes it easy to invite your whole team to make referrals. The more trusted people you get to help, the more successful your recruiting will be. Plus coworkers can invite their trusted contacts outside the company. This subtle change also helps drive scale.

What can people on your YesGraph team do that those you just invite to make referrals can’t? Team members can see all your jobs, review referrals, add team members, invite people to make referrals, and of course make referrals. Those you invite for a specific job to make referrals can do only that. We’re working on making this easier to understand, but we’re also going to make the default choice the right choice. When you invite people at your company, they’ll have more power as team members. When you invite people outside your company, they’ll just see that job to make referrals.

If you want to hear more about how we think about building our product, subscribe to get new blog posts right in your inbox.

How To Improve Product Quality

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The right way to grow your product’s user base is to focus on product quality. Above any “growth hack”, this is the key first step to successfully engineer growth. In a previous post, I described how we pushed to 10X in 100 days. In this post, I wanted to dig into how we’re organizing our product development to drive the next phase of growth.


There are plenty of examples of experts in growth that support a similar approach, but I haven’t read much practical advice on exactly what to do. I want to fill that gap, but keep in mind our approach fits our team and product. Just make sure to apply the framework to your own team and product, not the specific tasks.

Identify Goals & Friction

First, we broke down our funnel into buckets, each with a direct goal and moderately large focus. These will be the basis of ongoing projects, so don’t pick a focus too narrow. You also should avoid something so broad that there isn’t a clear metric to drive. For example, “retention” might be important, but it touched too much product surface area to be practically useful here.

To understand our list, you need to understand a bit about the product. YesGraph helps companies collaborate as a team to make referrals. We organize your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts, ranking them according to a given role. We make it push button to make referrals and we help you get your whole team onboard to help scale the process. On to the goals:

Landing Page Conversion. This covers the signed out experience for new recruiters & hiring managers, along with invitee landing pages. Our main challenge is to explain a social product without having the user’s connections before they sign up. The key metric is conversion to signup and accept invitations.

Creating a Job. We organize your recruiting around different jobs. They require a title and a brief description. If you’re not immediately recruiting, this is a point of friction and we should show more example positions to demo the product once we have your contacts. We also should provide more guidance around what kinds of descriptions work best. Hint: shorter but still descriptive wins.

Getting Connectors. We call people that make referrals “connectors”. There are two sides to this goal: sending invites and getting invites accepted. Any invite flow is crucial for a collaboration or social product, and we have some exciting enhancements around the corner. Another interesting thing that we’ve learned is that affinity among contacts really matters when asking for help. More soon!

Connectors Make Referrals. Once a connector accepted an invitation, did they make referrals? How many? Are they high quality? A lot of the current friction comes from expectations about social apps. Clicking on a face in other apps often tells that person something happened. In the context of recruiting, that doesn’t make any sense and it isn’t how YesGraph works. We’re working on making that messaging much clearer. The ranking of your contacts is also an area where we can pretty dramatically improve the results here. If everyone you would have recommended is right at the top, you can keep quality high while boosting performance.

Are you noticing a pattern here? This is a funnel. If more people sign up, more signups create jobs, more jobs have connectors, and connectors make more high quality referrals, then the value of each visit goes up. Removing the friction in the core product funnel means we’re directly improving product quality.

We have two other projects:

Team Creation. We recently launched the paid tier of YesGraph, built around team collaboration. It is far easier to collaborate with your team to make more referrals. Creating a team is separate from the free product, so this step after you tried YesGraph and got some referrals.

Team Engagement. This is a pretty large area, but it helps us focus on making the ongoing experience of a team better. Onboarding new users is incredibly important, and if we get everything above right, we’re off to a great start. But there are some features that focus on engaging a team. For SaaS software, continued engagement over time is the most important metric. This is because recurring revenue from a customer’s retention adds up to far more than the first month’s subscription fee.

Prioritize Within Projects

For each area, we have many ideas about what could improve the product the most. This estimate has two sides: the cost of creating the feature and the expected impact. Cost could involve detailed design, complex UI engineering, or building new backend systems. We want to work on the highest leverage things that will help improve the product experience. In many cases, you make guesses and aren’t sure what the impact is going to be. Where you can, run an analysis to find a better estimate of expected impact, but only if the analysis is far easier than just running a real experiment.

Assign Owners

This is important and underappreciated. You need to give ownership to your team to help drive improvements. Many teams are organized around functional roles for different product features. For example, you might be the engineering manager on the mobile team. Such managers often have many different priorities pulling the team in different directions. Explicitly assigning an owner results in focus and empowerment that really helps boost productivity for a new product. The next thing to do becomes much more obvious.

Make ownership real. Updates to the team around what shipped should come from owners. Owners need to understand the metrics and trust them. They need to make the numbers improve.

That said, guidelines like this can be flexible. Maybe a specific task is too large for the team on it and you need to pull resources from elsewhere to get it done quickly. This constantly happens, but with this organization, the cost is really explicit. If you take resources from another area, you’re explicitly saying that area is for now less important than another. If you’ve setup your projects well, there will be no easy answers. Is landing page conversion more important than the performance of our invite flows? They both matter. Those tradeoffs are always there, and making them explicit helps you make an informed decision about prioritization.

In our case, we have three engineers and six projects. Each owns two areas. This seems to work out pretty well. If our team were larger, we might slice off more areas or maybe just have teams of people working in a single area.

Review success as a part of ownership. Discussing what works and why is a big part about helping prioritize future work. It is with your experience that you hone your intuition to make better product and engineering decisions the next time around. Plus often there are very explicit lessons learned for your target audience about what they like and don’t like.

Refine Your Projects

We have a goal around Team Creation, but we recently realized we can make this go to almost 100%. If we make team creation the easy default after signing up, then there won’t be enough to refine to justify a whole project around this. This is ok, we’ll just shift around the projects to better reflect the goals. In our case, we’ll probably shift around two team goals: conversion to paid and around subscriber retention. The features these distinct goals cover are currently lumped together in “team engagement”.

The Results

We’re actually publishing this post really early in the process, but the tone on the team has already improved. There is an added healthy urgency that makes startups vibrant. We’ll follow up with another post about the results.

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How To Deploy YesGraph at Your Company

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We’ve been helping companies scale referral recruiting at YesGraph and seeing what patterns work well to help deploy YesGraph across an organization. The exact process will depend a lot on the size of your organization, but we’ve tried to extract some best practices.


credit FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Sourcing Sessions

If you’re just getting started out on YesGraph, you should try it out with part of your team. Start with reading about how to run a sourcing session here. Basically you want to get a few employees on a team, queue up a few different roles, and spend just a bit of focused time to gather referrals. This is a good introduction to YesGraph and will also see how well it fits with your team. We expect you’ll be delighted by the results.

Routine Sessions

You should continue to add groups to your YesGraph team, ideally with a focused onboarding that comes with a sourcing session. Keep the focus within these sessions to just a few roles. It makes sense then to add people by role so that the meeting can focus on getting new people in that role. If you’re working with your design team, get more designers on board in a meeting. If you need to expand your support team, dig in there.

The same best practices apply to these sessions, but let me summarize.

  • Make clear the constraints: local vs relocation vs remote, experience level, cultural fit, etc..
  • Work through a few different roles, and make sure not to completely exclude roles that are outside their expertise. Many engineers have worked with good designers and vice versa.
  • Make clear that nothing is posted to social networks when they sign up for YesGraph, and no contacts are automatically contacted.
  • Consider having a prize for motivation, if only a public kudos after the meeting. Pizza and beer also seem to work well.
  • Definitely tell them that YesGraph can help answer any other questions, and just email support@yesgraph.com

New Employee Onboarding

New hires might be the best group to add to the next sourcing session. You can help build a culture of recruiting while tapping them when their network is freshest. If you’re routinely bringing on new hires, you can get in the habit of having regular sourcing sessions. You might consider bringing some veteran employees to help guide the new hires on expectations around referrals, their quality, and recruiting generally.

Hiring As One Team

We’re improving YesGraph for Teams, and making it clearer that everyone in the company should be on the same team. Down the road, we’re going to add workflows for sub-teams within the same company, but for now don’t segment the team. We’re going to start reflecting the team’s connections to a given candidate, so having everyone together is going to help a lot. Plus then everyone can see all the roles within the company, which helps drive the most referrals. Even if someone doesn’t know many good referrals, being part of the team means they can invite friends outside the company to make referrals. Casting such a wide net is essential to scale referral recruiting.

Routine Check In

You probably already have a process for checking in on passive candidates in your pipeline. You need something similar for your employees, but to make referrals. A weekly meeting would be overkill, but quarterly might be too seldom. Pick a level that works with your team, and consider tuning it to the specific needs of the team. If a team needs to grow very fast, a monthly check in to dive into making more referrals is reasonable.

You should also be proactive and track things like travel, conferences, and events. People actively meet other talented people all the time, and asking at the right moment can really help.

Outreach & Intros

There are a few different ways to get in touch with referred candidates. Here they are, in rank order of what will get the best results (the top is the best):

  • An employee who is a close connection to the candidate emails an introduction
  • An employee who is an acquaintance of the candidate emails an introduction
  • You email the candidate mentioning the endorsement by the employee
  • You email the candidate mentioning the employee works at your company
  • You email the candidate with no social context
  • You send the candidate LinkedIn inmail.

The reasoning here is that a closer contact is always better, and most candidates prefer email over either the phone or inmail. This is all case dependent, but good guidance to start.

With referrals, you have a natural way to get in touch with a warm introduction: the referrer. For each of your referrals, ask the referrer for a warm introduction. At least get the email or phone number of the candidate if you don’t have it already. We’re working on building this directly into YesGraph, but you can manage the process in your Applicant Tracking System for now. You can do this most efficiently by exporting a CSV of referrals, which includes some profile information and the name of the first referrer.


To limit the number of candidates you email, you might consider filtering them first by pressing “favorite” in the list. You can get other team members to help with this process, including hiring managers. The exported CSV includes whether the candidates are favorited.

Templates For Outreach

One way to improve your recruiting process is to refine your messaging to candidates. It makes reaching out more efficient and also helps you put your best foot forward every time. You can similarly make messaging to employees templated, and many Applicant Tracking Systems already support this. Here is an example template you can use when contacting an employee about a referral.

Hi Bob,

Thanks for referring Mary Trevins. She looks great for a Software Engineer role at Widget Corp.

Could you introduce us? I’d like to have a 5 minute chat about whats next for her career. You can just add her to this thread.


It’s short, with a direct action, compliments the candidate and the referrer, and make the intention clear. It also makes the action for Bob really clear and easy. You should refine your templates, testing changes to see what works best.

More Coming Soon

There is a lot more we can build to make this process more efficient for your team to collaborate. Each step of this process can be smoothed out, and we’re working hard to build the future as fast as possible. We can, for example, support introduction templates to make everything right in YesGraph. If you have any feedback, please get in touch. It is the easiest way to prioritize something you want built: support@yesgraph.com

How We Built ClickShareLove at YesGraph’s 1st Hackathon

YesGraph just finished our first hackathon. Hackathons are fun events where you try to build something in a really short time. We had around 30 hours, and even with my high expectations, I was very impressed with what the team was able to produce.

There are a few projects to announce on this blog, starting with Click Share Love.


It’s About Love, Not Ads

Promoting content on Twitter has had a mixed history. Third parties started playing in the space before Twitter locked things down. I always hoped that truly native ads on Twitter would leverage the interest graph that is inherent to asymmetric following. I love lots of stuff, and I’d be willing to help that stuff because I love them so much. Getting paid needn’t be part of the equation.

From a brand perspective, getting out your message is notoriously difficult. Love – Ads + Promotion = Click Share Love. ClickShareLove allows your current fans to help spread your message to their network. It works like this: you ask for support from your fans. They choose how frequently to support, up to daily, weekly, or monthly. Then you can promote a tweet to trigger retweets from all the supporters. That’s it, but structurally, you’re sending a message through your fans to their followers, and this helps grow your fan base.

How about an example? When we published this blog post, we tweeted about it and then promoted those tweets on ClickShareLove. Our message was promoted by 9 supporters, who have thousands of followers. What if you had 1000s of supporters? Go try ClickShareLove today.

Oh, and you should go support YesGraph on Click Share Love!

Hackathons: A Ton O’ Hacks

Building something that can be launched in a few hours is actually pretty easy: you need to ruthlessly cut corners to get something coherent out. This might mean some thing are done manually. It might mean the design or infrastructure won’t scale. It most certainly means that you cut features until you have something reasonable to build.

A good example here is that there is no background processing in Click Share Love. For a service that needs to pull your recent tweet history and also schedule promotions, this is a horrible engineering design. Why cut it? Because fuck it, we’ll do it live: it’s simpler and already done, so move on. Another example: none of the interactions in the app are asynchronous, meaning each click triggers a page reload. This is horribly unscalable and inefficient, but for such a baby app, it just doesn’t matter.

In contrast, the design of Click Share Love is actually really awesome. If it were just me, it would be unstyled HTML, but because YesGraph’s designer, Guillermo Torres, got involved, we have a beautiful and delightful visual design. I especially love the logo, which really captures the idea of sharing what you love, and it is an unintentional play on the retweet icon.

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2 Tools To Make Social Media Management Less Daunting

A pillar of social media management is finding valuable content and sharing it via a variety of social platforms.  But with so much information online how do you find the right content?  How do you maintain a consistent flow of meaningful posts?  This process can be both overwhelming and time consuming.  Our solution at YesGraph is to use the online tools Inc and Buffer to collect information and create posting schedules.

Everyone on the YesGraph team finds great content online and we needed a place where we could share, store and collaborate on all of it.  Sure, we could copy a link and send it via email, but that information is easily lost in email threads or chat sessions.

Collecting Content With Inc

We use Inc to maintain an accessible library of interesting content over time. When a team member finds an article that they feel is valuable to our online community, they use the Inc Chrome extension and instantly upload the content to our Inc library with the comment #newsletter (the overarching hashtag for our social media posts).

I search #newsletter daily and see what articles have been shared and curate them for all of our social platforms. Team members can also leave comments and instruction. For example “please tweet @bobbrown with this article”. This allows the whole YesGraph team to be a resource for sharing valuable content.

We use this process for more than social media. Some links are great for #engineering, others help with #onboarding new employees. We use hashtags like this to help organize all this great content.

Posting Content With Buffer

With all of the content collected I turn to Buffer to help make posting easy and efficient.  I am able to take the information straight from our Inc library to Buffer where I can upload posts for all of our platforms at once. The custom scheduling allows me to tee up multiple posts in the future.

Inc + Buffer

With a full library of content and a schedule, I can layout my social media posts days in advance which takes away the stress of always updating in real time. Once I have shared an article I comment #shared on my Inc feed so that I can track what articles have already been used. I also use the Buffer analytics data to see how my posts have performed. Here is what that looks like, ample whitespace and all:

Overall, I spend around 30 minutes to curate the content that goes out through the week. Thanks to the awesome teams making Inc and Buffer!

How YesGraph Grew 10X in 100 Days

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It can be pretty overwhelming running a young company. You can be pushed and pulled in so many directions that deciding what to do next is tough. Having a clear direction and hitting your goals can solve almost any other problem, so I wanted to organize the team around something easy to understand.

We decided to set a 100 day goal to grow 10X. YesGraph helps companies scale referral recruiting, so we decided growing the number of referrals was the best goal. I’m happy to report that we did it, with referrals actually growing 11X in that time. Let’s explore how we did it.yesgraph 10X

This idea for 100 Day Goals came from Jason Freedman at 42Floors (an office space search engine). Jason wanted to mimic the focus and urgency of doing Y Combinator. Those 3 months leading up to demo day are often regarded as the most productive. Read more here.

Growing 10X in 100 days sounded like a great goal because of the round numbers. This is an important issue because everyone on the team can understand the effort. Plus referrals map directly to our core product value.

The irony is that most of our time was spent on product development for YesGraph for Teams. We wanted to finish Teams because getting revenue in a B2B company is key to understanding whether your customers value your product. But working on Teams didn’t directly move the needle. Here is what did matter: press and searchlight meetings.

No Silver Bullets

Press is often regarded as a silver bullet for a young company. If you could just get enough attention, you’ll win. I don’t view it that way: there are unfortunately no silver bullets in building a company. Press is merely one channel among many that help drive penetration and trust.

YesGraph was even available well before our press launch, which is a surprisingly uncommon best practice. Pushing press around a product needn’t correspond with making it available. If anything, launching in the press right when the product is done will mean that a wave of users come at a time of greatest product instability.

I really enjoyed the process of getting press with the help of PressFriendly. You should check them out if you’re trying to find reporters to tell your story.

Do Things That Don’t Scale

We recently started visiting companies to help run their searchlight meetings. Searchlight meetings are all about getting a team together for a focused session to make referrals. If your team uses YesGraph, you can quickly collect a huge number of quality referrals. We help the team get setup and answer any questions and concerns about how it works. This is an example of doing things that don’t scale. We want to get companies to use YesGraph deeply to get higher quality feedback. It’s easy to test the top of the funnel, but knowing what comes up deep in the funnel gets harder. We care about getting some companies to really love us, and coming to meet them is a great way to help.

The numbers from these searchlight meetings are stellar. You can find hundreds of high quality candidates across a few positions in less than an hour. If you’re in the bay area, get in touch if you want our help to run a meeting: support@yesgraph.com

Patterns Towards Success

One reason I’m excited about hitting a 10X goal is that it is an easy pattern to project our success. If you start at a reasonable scale and 10X twice, your company matters. But picking the right goals is hard, and we’re now focused on smoothing out the product experience. Then when we do push for scale with more companies, the next 10X will be easier to hit. This is especially true because the strategy we followed to grow so far practically won’t take us another 10X. We need to do a lot better.

Our next phase of growth will almost certainly result from empowering our users to help us grow, making a quality focus now that much more important. It’s a true challenge making the product good enough that customers actively recommend you, but it’s arguably the only way to reach massive scale. For YesGraph, it’s all about the referrals. Stay tuned for more. For now, if you like YesGraph, it really helps us if you tell your friends!

Meet the YesGraph Team: Jonathan Chu

This is the fourth post in our “Meet the YesGraph Team” series where we highlight the people that help build YesGraph.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Reitz

Photo Credit: Kenneth Reitz

What do you do at YesGraph?

I’m a software engineer at YesGraph and I help deliver business value through code. Like all of our engineers, I can be found working on all parts of our stack.

How did you join YesGraph?

I’m proud to say I’m a product of “dogfooding”. I met Vincent Driessen, our engineering lead, last year at a PyCon dinner with friends (we had some *very* spicy Mongolian BBQ!). We connected on LinkedIn shortly after and later that year, when YesGraph was using their own system to hire a software engineer, he referred me through the system. The rest is YesGraph history…! Continue reading

Meet the YesGraph Team: Judith Shahvar

This is the third post (part one: Luke, part two: Vincent) in our “Meet the YesGraph Team” series where we highlight the people that help build YesGraph.
Judith Shahvar

What do you do at YesGraph?

I am the Operations Manager so I wear many hats including office management, culture, customer service and recruiting.

How did you join YesGraph?

I worked with a recruiting agency. It was great to experience recruiting from the candidate perspective.

What’s one interesting fact that not many people know about you?

I have been to 6 of the 7 continents, only Antarctica to go! Continue reading