At Yelp, many of the problems that we try to solve are being solved for the first time. To be successful here, you need to be able to take up challenges that you might know nothing about and quickly learn on the job. Dennis R.’s aptitude has allowed him to time and again take up complex problems that he knows very little about and successfully solve them. His curiosity to learn on and off the job has impressed many, including his manager, Natarajan S. Did we mention he scuba dives, is an avid basketball player, and he’s doing the ‘100 books in a year’ challenge?
- What drew you to a job at Yelp initially?
I’ve always been a fan of Yelp and its mission to support local businesses. When I had the chance to intern on the business development team in 2012, I jumped at the opportunity.
The amount of exposure and trust the team placed in me as an intern was mind-boggling. I had never been in a culture of such transparency and with people who cared so much about the product and community they were building. And working with Mike Ghaffary, who eventually became the CEO of Eat24, was a tremendous learning experience.
When I graduated two years later, I knew exactly where I was going – to join Yelp as a member of its Associate Product Manager program.
- What is a typical day in the office like for you?
I wake up early every morning and spend an hour reading — mostly about technology and product. This helps keep me up to date on the constant stream of things happening both in my product space and interest area.
After coming into the office and grabbing coffee, I start the day by checking on metrics and meeting with the Transaction Growth team for standup. We share what each of us is working on, and it acts as the primary touchpoint between product and engineering.
After that, the day really depends on what is the most important problem we are trying to solve. It could be testing features in a beta build, user research, planning for upcoming projects, or doing design reviews.
My favorite days are those where I have a few hours to whiteboard the direction our product is headed in. How have we contributed to the Yelp ecosystem as a whole? Are we creating virtuous cycles within the product to keep users coming back? How does it relate to the trends in the industry that we are seeing?
- How does this job fit your skill set and what are you most excited about as you continue to grow in your role and at Yelp?
I studied Computer Science & Economics in college, and I have the opportunity to work on making Yelp a place for local transactions to happen — an almost mirror-like reflection of my interests. I get to work with local businesses to figure out how their businesses work. And I keep my ear to the ground with our users, asking them what we can build to make it easier for them to find, talk about, and transact with their local businesses.
The features I work on have an amazing depth to them. Product problems like discerning user intent, market design, search ranking, UI/UX, and more make each day exciting and new. Yelp offers a place to learn fast, grow fast, and make a difference.
- What’s your favorite thing about living in San Francisco? What are you up to when you’re not at work?
Besides the weather, beautiful national parks (Yosemite, Muir Woods), and sports teams (Go Warriors! 73-9!), San Francisco is defined by its community events for me.
There is nothing quite like spending an evening 10 feet away from the SF Symphony at Soundbox. Or Yoga at Grace Cathedral on a Tuesday afternoon. Or catching a film at Sundance Kabuki or The Roxie Theatre.
On the weekends you’ll find me playing basketball at USF and reading at The Mill. I sometimes write short stories that I’m not willing to share, and rollerblade through Golden Gate Park too!
- What are a few of your current favorite local businesses?
If you’ve never been to Farmhouse, you are missing out. Beautiful presentation, original recipes, and a unique take on Thai. Go and be amazed.
Spa J’Adore is not only well-priced with fantastic masseuses — it also built its entire business through Yelp. The founder, Simon, has an amazing story. He opened Spa J’Adore when he came to SF and, with the help of Yelp, expanded into multiple locations within a few years. But then he realized he wasn’t happy and all he wanted was to provide massages and great service every day, rather than run all these spas. He sold them all off except for Spa J’Adore.
Joe’s is the place to get a haircut. Locally owned and operated since 2004, Joe’s is a fixture in Duboce Triangle. My haircuts there have been consistently amazing, and all from different barbers. The team is talented and — best of all — they have a waitlist online instead of appointments. You just add your name, get an estimated time to arrive, and boom! Last minute style.
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