Women in Business: Q&A with Barbara Rivera, President and General Manager of Public-Sector Business at Experian

Barbara Rivera is the President and General Manager of Public-Sector Business at Experian. Rivera drives strategy and execution across Experian's public-sector business within the North American market.

She has worked with firms including IBM, SAP and Oracle and also formed alliances with system integrators and consulting organizations that work in the public sector. Rivera has an impressive 25-year track record of developing and managing business with key federal, state and local organizations such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, New York City and State as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I came from humble beginnings, where I developed a strong work ethic and key values, such as honesty and integrity. These qualities have served me well in every aspect of my life, and have helped shape the leader I am today.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Experian?
My work experience focused on technology that included software and analytics, with a solid public sector background. At Experian, I have the opportunity to combine analytics, customer and 3rd party data to help our government address major problems in areas including benefits programs (such as Medicaid), tax refund fraud and identity theft.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Experian?
The highlights stem from working for a company that empowers informed decisions for consumers and businesses alike, and helps them better understand and responsibly use credit in their financial lives.

The challenges include when people hear the name Experian, most associate it with the world of credit reporting. However, what many don't realize is that Experian is an international global information services company that works with a majority of the world's largest companies. We also help individuals improve and enhance their financial health. These services help consumers check and manage their credit report and credit score, as well as protect against identity theft. In addition, Experian supports mission critical programs for our government.

What advice can you offer women who want a career in STEM?
I believe that education should begin at an early age. The career opportunities in STEM are quite diverse and interesting from teaching, engineering, and actuarial fields, to research, fashion design, and more. Education and internships in any of these areas will give you the confidence and expertise to succeed in many of the STEM fields. Women who work in STEM careers earn, on average, 33 percent more than their counterparts in other fields.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I established my priorities early in my career. They include my faith, family, and work. Having a good partner or strong support system to help you balance the workload can make a difference as well as sharing all responsibilities equally whether it's doing laundry, cooking or changing diapers. The responsibilities should not be gender specific.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I feel that balancing your workload with starting and raising a family is a big issue. As an example, if you leave the workforce for a period, how do you maintain your edge and still be able to bounce back and advance in your career?

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having mentor(s) has made a significant difference for me in my professional and personal life. Your mentor should be someone that you trust, respect, and that you feel comfortable sharing any aspect of your life with this person. Your mentors may change as you embark upon different phases of your career.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have always admired Margaret Thatcher. She showed us what true leadership is. As the first female Prime Minister of Britain, she embodied strength and determination.

What do you want Experian to accomplish in the next year?
In the next year, I want Experian to be recognized as the leader in reducing fraud across multiple areas within our government, such as tax, healthcare, benefit programs, and identity theft. I'd also like Experian to be recognized as an outstanding corporate citizen because of our culture of engagement in the communities where we have offices and employees. We do this by not only fostering relationships with local nonprofit organizations, but by rolling up our sleeves and personally volunteering time and resources through our Heart of Experian community outreach program.