Action Network

11 - 25 employees
< 10 engineers
Private funding

Action Network builds infrastructure for the progressive movement using a sustainable, cooperative model grounded in respect, shared ownership and transparency, motivated by building progressive power rather than profit.

Action Network photo 1 Action Network photo 2

Why join us?

  • Since its founding in 2012, Action Network has powered some of the biggest moments of organizing in the last decade. Our technology operates at internet scale, and is growing quickly. From the Black Friday strikes against Walmart to the Women’s March and from the Standing Rock Sioux to Black Lives Matter, Action Network has consistently driven powerful, impactful activism and is now used by thousands of groups, sending billions of emails and raising hundreds of millions of dollars for progressive causes.

  • Since its launch in 2019, Action Builder, our organizing tool built in partnership with the AFL-CIO, has empowered mutual aid work during the Covid pandemic, U.S. Census organizing in the hardest-to-count districts in the country, dozens of union organizing campaigns, and more.

  • Using Action Network, the Democratic National Committee has broken historical records for fundraising including their best online fundraising month, three of their five best online fundraising days, and their best quarter ever.

  • Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other victims of police violence, activists have used the free, grassroots version of Action Network’s fundraising tools to raise millions of dollars to support the movement. Tens of thousands of small donor contributions to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, the Louisville Community Bail Fund, Black Lives Matter DC, and dozens of other bail funds and organizations have provided the building blocks for a sustainable and impactful Black Lives Matter movement.

  • Poor People’s Campaign used Action Network’s mobile messaging tool to help stage one of the largest virtual rallies ever. The results included over 2.5 million online views, 40,000 marchers, and 300,000 letters to elected officials calling for policy changes From policing and militarism to voting rights, workers' rights, welfare, health care, education, indigenous sovereignty, water, and environment.

  • Led by youth climate activist Greta Thunberg and organized on Action Network, the Youth Climate Strikes in September 2019 included 4500 strikes across more than 150 countries and turned out roughly 4 million protesters, many of them schoolchildren, in what is likely the largest climate strike in world history.

  • Beyond our impact, we believe we are a great place to work. We're remote-first, have generous vacation and family leave policies, we're proud of our record of professional development and internal promotion for our employees, and we have an engineering team that prioritizes ownership, independent work, and receives support and understanding rather than pressure from other non-engineering teams.

Engineering at Action Network

Engineering team and processes

We are a small but mighty team, proud to get more done on time and on budget than larger teams due to our entire organization’s approach to collaborative technology development. Engineers have clear expectations for their work, and are able to work independently in the context of small, functional teams.

We currently have two SaaS products, and thus our engineering team has engineers dedicated to each product. Our main product, Action Network, has backend frontend engineers, as well as designers, who work on this product every day. The team is led by our lead developer for the product, and managed by the Director of Technology, who oversees all engineering. Our newer product, Action Builder, has a similar, if somewhat smaller team structure. We have a few engineers who service both teams, mostly around shared architecture, including the role we’re currently looking to fill for a devops/security engineer.

Feature development in our organization is somewhat unique, in that we partner very closely with our largest customers to determine what features we should be building on each product. While most of this partnership work is done by our product team, it means our customers have true ownership over the products they use, and it means that engineers are always working on features that are directly prioritized by our customers, and are therefore going to be used and have immediate impact.

Products are developed with a sense of focus on doing one thing well, ensuring deliverables and timelines are clear, feature and requirement creep is nonexistent, and our products do what they are supposed to do. We are strict about locking product requirements, and we have deep experience providing accurate estimates and then delivering on those timelines. Because we stop scope creep by locking product requirements, and because we’re working directly with existing customers to develop features vs. building things prospectively to boost sales, engineers are able to proceed on their feature development with confidence that scope will not change, and they’ll be able to request and receive feedback directly from customers as they make technical choices.

On a day-to-day level, we endeavor to give engineers freedom and flexibility to do their work. Communication is largely handled through tickets and Slack, work is portioned out into achievable and independent items, and engineers are clear on what they are working on at any given time so they can achieve progress independently. Engineers are not expected to keep set hours (though we do expect some overlap with the rest of the team during the working day), but rather to collaborate with their peers to deliver their work. Small teams mean natural collaboration and support, without the bureaucracy of useless meetings, chains of command, multiple levels of management, and the like.

We believe in code ownership as well — bugs, after triage, are assigned to engineers who own various parts of the codebase, and engineers are expected to participate in code reviews, write tests, and help QA features before deployment, along with other engineering staff.

Because we’re a small team, we do not adhere strictly to any named engineering process, though our work most closely resembles a loose form of Agile, with estimates, then work assigned in small chunks, and regrouping after a short period of time to reassess. We deploy frequently, with new features rolling out every few weeks to production.

Technical Challenges

We are a high-impact organization. Our toolsets operate at a global scale and are used by the most cutting edge and sophisticated cause-based progressive organizations. Your work will power progressive victories around the world.

A few technical challenges that we face regularly include:

  • Keeping a customer-facing API up and available when then-Presidential candidate Joe Biden mentions a website using this API from the debate stage on national television.

  • Processing millions of dollars in small-dollar donations to local organizations fighting for racial justice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

  • Delivering millions of email and mobile messages for customers in minutes.

  • Allowing sophisticated organizations such as the Democratic Party to slice and dice their activists lists so they can effectively target their outreach programs among petabytes of data stored across tens billions of rows in relational databases.

Projects you might work on
  • Our customers use our built in query builder to target their email and mobile messages. They can choose from a variety of data points such as whether someone was a previous donor or lives in a certain area to do this targeting. As we grew, it became slower and slower to perform these queries on our database of record, MySQL, as MySQL is meant for OLTP type workloads, but these queries more resemble OLAP workloads, examining potentially billions of rows to come up with an answer.

    We embarked upon a project to choose an OLAP relational database, including validation that this database could serve these types of queries with acceptable performance, and then integrate MySQL with that database in nearly real time, to allow our customers to do their targeting using the OLAP database instead of MySQL.

    We ended up choosing Amazon Redshift as our OLAP database, and using HVR to integrate MySQL with Redshift in nearly real time. We then had to allow our application to connect to either MySQL or Redshift depending on the context, to allow targeting via Redshift but other more OLTP-suited operations via MySQL.

    Overall, we took query times down from hours or days to minutes, and have an application that can query data from multiple database engines transparently to end users.

  • When customers send email or mobile messages, they will include what we call “clips” in their messages, which perform personalization functions. For example, the {{ FirstName }} clip will output the first name of the recipient of the message, allowing you to personalize a greeting, such as “Dear {{ FirstName }}”. These clips are powered by the Liquid templating system for Ruby on Rails, made by Shopify.

    Our customers expect millions of messages to be delivered within minutes. This means, for each message we send, we must look up data about that recipient that is used to fill whatever clips have been used, and we have to do this without slowing down the speed at which messages are sent. Some of this data is simple (such as first name), but some of it is more complex, such as whether this person has a user-defined tag on their record, or the amount of their highest donation from all donations they have made in the past. Especially when an organization has tens millions of donations, tags, and recipients, this can get very challenging.

    Over the years we have embarked on multiple projects to optimize these clips. Some of them involve minimizing database calls, caching results in memory, and generally streamlining the building of message content. Others involve leveraging features of our database such as read-only mirrors to distribute the load among database servers. Still others involve using our OLAP database, Redshift, to pull out all donations to an organization, grouped and sorted in the way necessary for us to be able to pull out highest previous donation amounts for each user targeted to receive the message, allowing us to run one large query on an OLAP database and fill in clips individually for every message from in-memory results.

    Overall, we’ve been able to keep the wall clock time dedicated to building clips to modest percentages of overall email building times, keeping email sending fast for our customers.

  • Our main customer base is politically and socially focused, which means system usage will vary over time. For example, we tend to see high usage around election season, which is fairly predictable, but we also see high usage during more unpredictable events, such as the Women’s March around Trump’s inauguration in 2017 or the huge outpouring of racial justice activism after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. At those moments, our application and its associated services need to scale with demand.

    We have worked to decouple our application, so different parts can be scaled independently. For example, we are able to scale our web server tier to handle additional traffic on demand, as well as our API server tier to handle API traffic. We can scale our email and mobile message sending independently as well, along with our reader database mirrors, to enable additional throughput on message sending. And we can scale our asynchronous background processing as well in various dimensions. All of this involved careful decoupling of services and codepaths, making operations stateless where possible, deliberate use of shared resources such as databases and caches, and effective isolation and inter-service contract enforcement of groups of functions so that workloads can be scaled independently.

    We have plans to do more, however, including more automation in response to load.

Tech stack
Ruby on Rails

Working at Action Network

We are an organization founded on progressive values, and seek to carry them forward in all we do. We don’t just believe in this movement, we try to live it.

We believe equity is a foundational progressive value, honoring the dignity and humanity of all people. We also believe it is fundamental to building a strong movement and achieving breakthrough progressive power, rooted in the history of social justice movements.

We believe that strong organizations are transparent about their goals, approach, methods, and desired outcomes. We engage honestly and transparently with our partners and bring this value to how our tools are created, how they are maintained, how they are priced and how we work together as a team.

We practice transparency internally, including proactively communicating about our work. We also trust our staff to make responsible and informed decisions, to create a culture of collaboration and empowerment rather than of secrecy and micromanagement.

Much of what we do and much of what our technology enables involves working collaboratively toward a common vision. We think that true collaboration can only happen in an environment where everyone’s goals and needs are treated with respect, and where we foster a culture of growth rather than blame. We do our best work when we practice welcoming, kindness, empathy, and compassion in our communication with each other and our partners.

Diversity and Inclusion

Action Network is committed to building a more diverse, intersectional workforce, and the company is pursuing that goal in several ways.

We pursue our commitment to diversity in recruiting and hiring by ensuring job postings contain gender-neutral language, using diversity recruiting software to support as little bias as possible, removing identifying demographic information to produce a neutral candidate selection process, and more.

In order to ensure a safe work environment, we have straightforward reporting protocols and consequences. A complaint can be submitted to any supervisor, leader, or board member through any communications channel. There will never be reprisals. Consequences for an employee found to have created an unsafe environment aggressor can include training, accountability plans, firing, and restorative justice or conflict resolution protocols.

We have adopted professional development and benefits policies with the explicit goal of increasing equity. This includes paid family and medical leave, home office and technology stipends, and training opportunities.

Finally, representatives of the Action Network union and Action Network management meet regularly to discuss issues related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). As a part of this process, management has hired DEI consultants to conduct trainings for staff on implicit bias and other workplace issues, and Action Network management has agreed to a DEI roadmap, which includes several clear goals for the coming year around hiring, DEI accountability, website accessibility, and more.

We are dedicated to creating a welcoming, inclusive company culture. For new employees, we have created an onboarding process to introduce staff members via 1-on-1s and provide introductory materials such as our employee handbook. We practice transparency internally, including proactively communicating about our work through Slack and weekly team calls and practicing clarity in our communications by avoiding jargon, undefined acronyms, or condescension.

We recognize that we have more work to do to build a truly equitable organization, and are committed to fostering an even more welcoming and inclusive company culture. We are working with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultants to help us evaluate our current practices and policies, and we are committing to a DEI roadmap with goals through the end of 2022.

We value the personal and professional growth of our employees, and we provide resources and support for individuals to gain skills, identify and develop strengths, and become leaders in the movement. These include up to 3 paid professional development days per year and up to $2,000 per year toward the cost of programs and courses.

Connect with our team during your hiring process

As part of our commitment to an inclusive workplace, we are happy to offer prospective engineers the chance to connect with our engineering employees who come from underrepresented backgrounds. It’s a way to get a better sense of our team and what it might be like to work with us.

If you’re interested in connecting with our team, be sure to bring this up during one of our introductory calls!

Perks & benefits
  • Work from Home

    The majority of employees at Action Network work from home full-time. Action Squared reimburses up to $200 per month for technology and home office expenses, including internet, cell phone, laptops, etc.

  • Generous Vacation

    Action Network offers unlimited vacation with a 15-day minimum per year.

  • Maternal/Paternal Leave

    Action Network provides sixteen weeks of paid parental leave following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child to all full-time employees. An employee may take an additional four weeks of unpaid parental leave for a total of twenty weeks of parental leave.

  • Health Insurance

    Full-time employees may participate in Action Network's insurance programs beginning on the first day of the month following their hire date. Action Squared will pay 90% of the premium for our reference plan (which may include medical, dental and vision insurance) for each employee and their families. The employee may select other plans for a lesser or additional cost through the DC marketplace.

  • 401(k) Contribution

    Action Network has established a 401(k) pension plan in which full time employees may participate after three months of full-time employment. Action Network contributes 3% of an employee’s base pay as a grant (not a match). Employees may additionally contribute more and up to the amount allowed by law.

  • Flexible Hours

    Employees are expected to work 40-hour work weeks on average. Employees are free to set their own working hours as long as they allow for meetings with other staff.

  • Workshops/Conferences

    Employees are allowed — and are strongly encouraged — to take up to three paid professional development days per year. Professional development opportunities can include in-person or online trainings or courses, conferences or other events, and materials. Action Network may contribute up to $2,000 per year towards the cost of courses that relate the employee’s work.

  • Serves underrepresented populations

    Our organization is both a part of and works in service to the progressive movement. We are dedicated to supporting organizations and individuals working toward a fairer, more just world. We assist activists working to protect the environment and the right to organize, the right to quality healthcare, and the right to live free of race, sex, or gender discrimination.

  • Social impact driven

    We believe equity is a foundational progressive value, honoring the dignity and humanity of all people. We also believe it is fundamental to building a strong movement and achieving breakthrough progressive power, rooted in the history of social justice movements. We work closely with our partners to ensure our tools are used exclusively by progressive organizations.

  • Gym/Fitness

    Action Network provides a Health & Wellness stipend of $50 per month per employee for expenses that advance the physical and/or mental health and well-being of a staff member.

  • Pet Friendly

    Action Network has an extremely pet-friendly culture — just look at our 404 page at, refresh for more! — but pets are unfortunately not allowed in the Washington, DC office.

  • Prioritizes diversity in hiring

    Action Network is committed to building a more diverse, intersectional workforce. See our answer to the relevant question above for details.

  • LGBTQ+ friendly

    Ensuring that Action Network is a friendly and inclusive place to work for members of the LGBTQ+ community is an explicit priority of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion process detailed above.

  • Free Food

    Washington, DC-based staff can enjoy free lunch at the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Occasionally, remote staff can receive gift cards for free lunch as well.

  • Travel

    Action Network reimburses employees for meals, lodging, and travel related to employment.

  • Beautiful Office

    Action Network's office is located in the heart of Washington, DC, just blocks from the Capitol and White House.

  • Company Retreats

    Action Network arranged off-site company retreats prior to Covid and plans to resume that practice when it’s safe to do so.

  • Dedicated Human Resources team

    Action Network has a Chief Operating Officer, and is in the process of hiring a Human Resources Director. We expect to have this position filled by mid-2022.

Our Team by the Numbers
Engineering team

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