Bonded by Love for Product
Everyone on the team is mission-driven and committed to elevating our users’ experience and financial health.
As the son of struggling immigrants, Jimmy (founder and CEO) experienced firsthand a deep need for helping Americans with limited income improve their financial wellbeing. The technology for checking available SNAP balances didn’t work well on mobile devices, and calling a phone line required a 16-digit number. Jimmy founded Propel in 2014 to address this issue with just $11,000 from a Kickstarter campaign. Now, over five million families across the country rely on Propel.
The pandemic only heightened the need for our app called Providers: thousands of people living paycheck-to-paycheck lost their jobs, contracted COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate, or needed to choose between working and watching their kids when schools closed. We partnered with GiveDirectly to distribute $180 million to randomly selected app users, giving them each $1,000 in one-time grants.
Recently, we raised a $50M Series B to expand one of our newest products, the Providers Card, and build new features for our users to make or save money. If you’d like to join a team that is passionate about building products that serve Americans with limited income, we’re hiring!
We empower engineers to see ideas from initial proposal to execution and improvement.
Everyone on the Propel team is invited to write proposals and share ideas for new features and improvements that align with company goals. For example, Jeff, one of our software engineers, proposed moving to a new architecture that would improve how low-income families see their EBT balance in real time, which helps them purchase food.
Zack, one of our newer engineers, took this project on and recently pushed massive code to production within the first month on the job. 👏 He continues to work with the team on monitoring and refactoring it to optimize the process. It was a big success as our customers' turnaround time for getting EBT balance information dropped significantly.
Creative + Innovative
We have dedicated time for engineers to think outside of the box.
Our engineering team works in a six-week cycle, followed by a two-week cool-down period. During these two weeks, engineers take the time to catch up, collaborate together, make improvements to the code or processes, and innovate on any idea or project they choose.
We also have regular hackathons every few cycles! Several great ideas are now live in production, thanks to these projects. For instance, our users shared with our customer success team that a central pain point was not knowing which items at the grocery store were eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. They would have to take an item to the checkout counter and ring it up. Katie spearheaded a project to allow users to scan barcodes to see right away if an item was eligible for SNAP.
Another valuable addition to our app came from Ilya. His idea was to show if a deposit is pending, so that users could have more information about their overall balance. 🙌
Customer Comes First
We’re laser-focused on how we can best serve our customers.
We stay empathetically connected with our users through our proactive feedback loop, which helps us prioritize effectively.
There are several ways we incorporate our users’ voices into the products we build. Engineers work closely with our customer support team to address issues promptly through our weekly on-call rotation. Our design team regularly chats with users to listen to their perspectives and current needs. Anyone on the team can also join these calls to learn more about our customers’ product joys and pain points.
We use observability tools such as Datadog to keep track of important metrics and proactively solve issues before they become bigger problems. In addition, we survey households every month to understand how external factors like a changing economy, public health, and policy interventions impact families. You can check out our publicly shared research here!
We also aren’t afraid to pivot when issues arise. For example, at one point, users were reporting that their balances weren’t displaying accurately within the app. A member of our engineering team discovered an issue with scraping the data from state governments due to their lagging in updating it properly. The engineering team worked hand-in-hand with our public policy team to firefight and resolve the situation as quickly as possible. We understand the impact our product has on families’ day-to-day lives and always step up as active participants in the product.
Actively Practices Inclusion
An inclusive environment is crucial for both our product and our culture.
We’re on a mission to build tools that help restore financial health for millions of Americans with limited incomes. Having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture is the key to creating the best product possible, starting with how we interview. We use a structured interview process with consistent questions and well-defined stages, grading rubrics, and scorecards to reduce bias. We provide interview bias training for our interviewers as well.
We’ve designed our onboarding experience to provide every new engineer with a level playing field to understand our product. We provide a peer buddy program and schedule 1:1 chats with teammates to make the first weeks of joining our remote first environment more comfortable.
We also invite all employees to join and participate in our JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) Slack channel. We enjoy celebrating heritage months as a company with events and activities such as virtual African and Latin America diaspora cooking classes, identity-centered learning games, guest lectures, and more!
Promotes from Within
We want you to grow your career here!
As a small but growing team, we still have a flat structure that embraces collaboration, mentorship, and learning. We’re also committed to promoting internal talent who’re interested in moving into people management. Alex is a great example: he progressed into becoming an engineering manager, thanks to his proactive support of the team and emphasis on mentorship.
That said, we recognize that people management isn’t the only way to grow your career. We also support engineers moving into tech lead roles or leveling up as ICs to the equivalent of a principal engineer.
Flexible Work Arrangements
We don’t have a rigid “9-5.”
We’ve a remote-first culture, and our team is distributed across the United States. There’s a (dog-friendly 🐶!) HQ office in Brooklyn and working space in San Francisco, but you’re not required to work from an office if you prefer not to. (You should take a minute to check out our full team, including our furry mascots.)
As long as you’re getting your work done and going to meetings you agree to attend, we trust you to manage your schedule. We’re very active in Slack and use Zoom for virtual meetings. We’re mindful of each other’s working hours and don’t expect you to be constantly available.
We all have hobbies and interests outside of work, and our flexible working hours ensure that we can enjoy them! Some of our team members are active gamers; others enjoy soccer, competitive dancing, and other recreational sports. We even have a teammate who DJs on the weekend – Chanice! We also have many fun Slack channels dedicated toward creating community around our hobbies and interests.
Lastly, Propel is a great place to work for parents since we offer 16 weeks of paid parental leave along with flexible hours.
High Employee Retention
We enjoy working and growing together!
As our team has steadily grown during the pandemic years, we’ve maintained a close-knit, collaborative, and fun community! Although Propel didn’t originally start as a remote-first company, we quickly learned how to adapt to this new way of working.
While we’ve a thriving and interactive team culture on Slack and Zoom, we still make the time to meet in-person at team and company-wide retreats and events. In March 2022, we had a karaoke night near our Brooklyn office after celebrating our Series B announcement!
Some members of our engineering team would like to share their favorite part of working at Propel:
- Jonathan: “Probably the people. Everyone here seems to really care about what we are doing and care about helping others grow and succeed.”
- Ruthie: “Propel is a deeply empathetic, people-first company, both in regard to our users and our co-workers. I get to work on something incredibly meaningful with teammates I enjoy spending time with and learn a lot from.”
- Mohan: “I love having agency over what I work on, which I really didn’t experience before Propel. Being able to write proposals and having some influence over what I spend six weeks of my life on is so nice.”
Charles: “I love everyone I work with – I get to learn and improve through every interaction.”
- Beresford: "The freedom. You can be as forthcoming with your goals as you want and work on said goals at your own pace; It feels like the opportunities here are way more plentiful than in most places."
It’s also important to mention that since our founding in 2014, we’ve had only two IC members on our engineering team leave. (In July 2021, one of them went on to pursue building their startup, and we hope they’re doing great!) So if joining a fun, collaborative, mission-driven team speaks to you, we look forward to hearing from you!