For Jacob Graham, The Lee Group is the family business. His father, Walt, is President of the staffing and executive search firm recognized as a leading provider of recruiting services on the East Coast. His sister, Sarah Fulton, is the company’s Vice President of Operations.

But Jacob forged his own journey. While he applied to one college, his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, Jacob discovered his original major, accounting, wasn’t what he wanted to do. He switched to biology after a summer camp opened his eyes to research by exposing him to the effects of brain injuries. He later continued his education in genetics and data science at VCU.

For nearly a decade, Jacob was essentially a lab rat, working at VCU in the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products and then the School of Nursing Biobehavioral Research Lab. An early morning phone call changed his direction.

“Sarah called me at 8:30 in the morning, which she never does,” Jacob recalls. “She asked the faithful question of, ‘Have you ever thought of coming to work for me?’”

At one time, Jacob might have said no. But reflecting on what was important to him professionally, he came back with a yes. Today he is the Client Services Manager in The Lee Group’s Richmond office. Making a difference in the lives of others is among the reasons he chose the early career in lab sciences. But academic research requires a commitment to the long game.

“You may not see the impact you’re having on people’s lives for years,” Jacob says. “It’s awesome work. Leaving it behind was no easy decision but working here has been an easy transition for me in terms of what my overall life goals are. I am able to change people’s lives by what I’m doing and being invested in the family business was an easy sell for me.”

Jacob enjoys partnering with candidates seeking new careers and working with clients to find that perfect match for vacant positions. A recent placement was particularly gratifying. Sarah demonstrated the “art” of staffing by helping Jacob place a candidate who didn’t meet all the technical requirements for an opening.

“We saw something in him that would make him a great employee for our client,” Jacob says. “They trusted us and now he’s gone permanent with that company.”

The idea of contributing to a business so meaningful to his family also inspires Jacob.

“Dad is a lead-by-example type of guy, so it’s been interesting to work with him these last couple of months. He sets a high bar in terms of expectations and it’s great to see him in action, holding himself to those same standards .”

As for Sarah, “She was always the model citizen,” Jacob says. “She was top of her class and never got into trouble. I learned how to do everything right from my sister.”

The job is better for him personally, too, offering the right work-life balance.

Jacob and his spouse, Sam, became recent homeowners in Richmond and both are devoted to their Aussie Shepherd, Leo. All of them enjoy hikes following the James River Park System.

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