Video & Transcript

“Alumni in the Field”  is an on-going series where alumni reflect on their career paths and how their Amherst experience shaped their lives. Chris Lehane,  ’90 head of global policy and communications for Airbnb, believes that technology platforms have an enormous responsibility for their impact in the world. 

Amherst Alumni in the Field: Chris Lehane ’90

December 21, 2018

Chris Lehane ’90, head of global policy and communications for Airbnb, believes the company's home sharing mission is using technology to create community-wide economic benefits.

Transcript of Chris Lehane Interview

I grew up in Maine and when I was looking at different colleges and universities I was privileged to have a lot of really
great choices. What I really saw at Amherst was a place that was really focused on teaching people how to learn. There was a gut feel that this place was really right for me and I just also liked the size. I was going to classes where there were 10, 15, 20 students. The rigor of those classes, the back-and-forth--it was, I guess, that animating idea that you could love to learn.

My name is Chris Lehane. I am a very proud member of the class of 1990 and currently, I'm the Head of Global Policy and Communications at Airbnb, here in San Francisco.

What I was really incredibly intrigued by was that it was a place that really aligned with my values. Airbnb had actually come up with a new economic model because of technology and not using technology to replace or displace people, not using technology to segment people. And so for someone who fundamentally believes it's incredibly
important that we address social justice issues, and at the center of that is economic equality, I've yet to see anything that remotely does what Airbnb does.

We're in a time period where there are some people talking about building walls, right? Where there are travel bans, where you have technology really sort of isolating people into these digital bubbles. Tech platforms, in particular, do need to approach this with an understanding that they have enormous responsibility for what they're doing the world.

And that comes back to, I do think, an Amherst College education. It does really give people a real sense of responsibility. Bringing the humanities background to that at this particular time and place is exceptionally relevant. Every day I'm trying to learn, and I do track that back ultimately to that Amherst education.