Kate Viar ’96

Kate ViarDEGREE: B.A. in political science

JOB TITLE: Director, U.S. public policy, Amazon

FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: There are so many, but mostly just times hanging out in the Cave with classmates. Because I interned full time and spent limited time on campus, I sometimes felt like I wasn’t truly experiencing college. In the Cave, it felt like college!

How did you get started as a lobbyist? I was introduced to lobbying in high school by the Youth and Government Program, where I met Paddi LeShane, a prominent Hartford-based lobbyist who served as a mentor for the program. She offered me a paid internship; I interned for her firm, Sullivan & LeShane, throughout college, and when I graduated, I was offered a full-time job. I learned so much from her and the other lobbyists at the firm and made my way to D.C. in 1999.

What do you enjoy most about your work? I work for a company that is constantly innovating and inventing, which means every day I work on new policy issues and tackle new challenges. I’m never bored! I manage a team that oversees a diverse portfolio of digital, device, and retail issues, from intellectual property and music licensing, to payments and financial services, to telecommunications and artificial intelligence, to privacy and data security … and then some. I interface with so many interesting business partners and witness the development of new technology, products, and services.

What are the biggest challenges you face? Given the diversity of my policy portfolio, I juggle a lot of different policy issues covered by multiple committees of jurisdiction. Sometimes that makes it challenging to develop deep relationships on the Hill. It’s definitely a balancing act.

What has been the highlight of your Amazon career? That’s easy … accompanying [Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos to the White House in 2016 for our Joining Forces announcement, in which Amazon committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses and providing free technical training for 10,000 veterans and military spouses. As a military spouse myself (my husband is an active duty colonel in the Army), I am proud of Amazon’s commitment to hiring and developing military talent, and I enjoy being able to work on military-related policy issues for the company.

How did Trinity’s Legislative Internship Program help you in your career? There is no substitute for working on the inside of government, and my internship taught me much about “how the sausage gets made” and allowed me to round out my experience. It also convinced me that I would never want to run for office!

Was there a professor who was particularly influential? Professor of Political Science Gregory Smith was particularly influential. He challenged me and helped me become more open-minded. I did not look forward to taking political philosophy because I was already working and knew what I wanted to do when I graduated, yet I was pleasantly surprised by his class because he made it relevant and fun. Because of him, I registered for additional political philosophy classes.

What is your involvement in DC PAWS Rescue, and what do you do in that role? I am the co-founder and director of DC PAWS Rescue. It’s my second full-time job! Because we’re a small and relatively new animal rescue, I wear many hats … too many hats. I do everything from pulling animals from the shelter, to setting up vet appointments, to working with fosters on training challenges, to posting on social media. It is definitely a priority to recruit additional leaders to assist with most of these functions so that we can grow the rescue and save more animals. I wish I could do it all but recognize I cannot, given my limited bandwidth.

Why is this organization important to you? I’ve been an animal lover my whole life but began volunteering for a rescue in 2010 and gradually became more involved by fostering dogs and then volunteering in operations. Once you visit an animal control facility in an under-resourced, rural area, you cannot unsee the challenges and hopelessness. You have to do something.