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Recent press: WashingtonExec Dec. 3, 2012

Q&A With Experian’s Barbara Rivera: “More Than a Credit Bureau”

By Srimathi Sridhar

Barbara Rivera, General Manager of Experian Government ServicesMeet Barbara Rivera, General Manager of Experian Government Services. Prior to joining Experian, Rivera was Vice President, Public Sector at SAS Institute, where she was accountable for the sales management of predictive analytics and business intelligence solutions.

WashingtonExec spoke with Rivera about how she got to Experian, what she means by calling the company “more than a credit bureau”, the company’s work with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the concept of “big data” and data analytics, service promotion, and more.

Read on below for our interview with Rivera.

WashingtonExec: Could you tell me a little bit more about yourself, your background, and how you got involved in executive management and business development.
Barbara Rivera: I have been in the industry in business development, sales, and the public sector for a little over twenty years now. I have a bachelor’s degree in math and education. I started out as a high school math teacher and did that for a couple of years, and then went off and received an MBA with a concentration in management. Some of the corporations that I’ve worked for include SAP, Oracle and IBM. My most recent position was with SAS. I’ve always been focused on solutions. I started out in the hardware business with Digital Equipment Corporation for about ten years and that became a commodity business. After that opportunity I quickly moved into solutions and services. My strength is focusing on building successful teams, developing solutions and helping government agencies solve key business problems.
WashingtonExec: What advantage do you think Experian holds in delivering strategies or solutions to the different level of government agencies?
Barbara Rivera: A lot of people probably think of Experian as a credit bureau. We are more than that. A few key areas for us in the public sector in particular are around data and analytics.
WashingtonExec: What are some challenges you have faced in your position as President and General Manager of Experian?
Barbara Rivera: For me, in terms of challenges, it’s about working with the agencies and having them know that we are able to address multiple areas where our government has  big issues today. Some examples include eligibility determination, fraud and revenue collections. Specifically in the area of  fraud, waste and abuse we have a solution that helps our government to focus on fraud prevention and fraud detection. We are currently working with the Social Security Administration to help protect a person’s identity and make certain that it’s a secure environment when they are accessing their Social Security statement online. I encourage you to go to www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement and experience exactly how we are helping the government to protect identities and safeguard an individual’s information.
WashingtonExec: How is Experian’s public sector team looking to expand its services?
Barbara Rivera: We are going  to expand our investment in public sector to the Intelligence community as well as state and local governments. We will also focus on the continued expansion of our business in areas of eligibility determination for entitlement programs; fraud, waste and abuse prevention; program integrity; identity management; and revenue collections.
WashingtonExec: What do you find important about data analytics in relation to security and transparency in the government?
Barbara Rivera: I’m going to separate the two. In terms of the data, it’s important that you have quality data. It is also key to be transparent with citizens in regards to what you are doing with the data. On the analytics side, it is one thing to go through and do statistical analysis to build algorithms but it is more important to combine the analytics and the data so that you can make key decisions. It is all about decisioning and delivering actionable results.
WashingtonExec: What have you found the most effective way to promote your services? For example, do you use social media to do that?
Barbara Rivera: We use multiple means of promoting our services. We have webinars and seminars. We had an event focused on cyber security and e-authentication at the Willard and we are considered a thought leader in that space because of the work that we are doing in ID management, ID proofing and protecting identities. We also have white papers and are active in social media.
WashingtonExec: What is your favorite hobby?
Barbara Rivera: I have a couple of hobbies but my favorite hobby is cooking. I give my family the opportunity to enjoy gourmet meals. I subscribe to Bon Appétit and their magazines and I order their annual books. I enjoy collecting recipes and I also enjoy going to restaurants that are recommended by Bon Appétit – enjoying the dishes and then coming home and trying to recreate them.
WashingtonExec: What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Barbara Rivera: In my career I was told by an individual, and this has carried forward for me, that you don’t have a plan if it’s in your head. You don’t have a plan if you are managing by the seat of your pants. You must have a documented plan. For me, the keys to success are planning, putting together strategy and effective execution, as well as making certain that your organization understands and evangelizes the vision, goals and objectives.
WashingtonExec: Do you see big data analytics or predictive analytics fundamentally changing the IC community? I see that you are involved in a lot of the DOD projects – do you see this as a fundamental change or just kind of a natural progression?
Barbara Rivera: I believe that it is a natural progression. I think that there is a lot to do and a lot that is being said about big data. Sometimes the term can be overused but I think the burning question that government agencies should ask themselves is, when you are looking at big data, do we have what we need, are we using the data, are we collecting this data? Again big data does evolve into decisioning, it evolves into analytics and giving an organization or an agency actionable results.
WashingtonExec: You mentioned how big data is kind of a broad term. What does the word big data mean to you?
Barbara Rivera: Different people have a different perception of big data. Data has always been an asset in an organization, there is no question about it. However, I see a tremendous opportunity for Experian to bring quality data and insightful analytics to the expanding list of public-sector customers that are in need of these types of solutions.
WashingtonExec: What is something that most people might not know about you?
Barbara Rivera: I’ve worked in data and analytics throughout my entire career and have always regarded Experian as a leader in the industry.

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