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13

FEATURE

ANATURAL LEADER

There’s a playfulness to Rivera that

one wouldn’t expect from a former

drill sergeant and 32-year veteran of

military service.

Every morning, he climbs out of bed,

cranks his speakers up to 10 and

blasts Will Smith songs while he gets

ready for his day. He shows up to work

at the Rivera Group, where he is the

founder and CEO, full of energy and

excitement. His employees good-

naturedly roll their eyes at him and tell

him they need a cup of coffee before

they are ready for him.

“I haven’t worked in years,” he grinned.

“This is so much fun.”

It’s an attitude that reflects his

management style. It’s all about

finding the right fit for the applicants

that come through his door.

“Tell me what you love to do and I’ll

put you in that role, and you’ll never

work another day in your life,” he said.

“Everyone has a talent. The key is to

help find the talent and to put that

person in a job that encourages them

to be great. I’m totally fine with failure,

as long as it’s the result of trying more

than a person thinks they can do. ‘Go

for it!’ is my message, and we’ll get up

together if you fall.”

Founded in 2004, the Rivera Group,

based in Sellersburg, Indiana, is a

cyber-defense software company

that provides solutions to the federal

government. The company, which

is 150 employees strong across 16

states, consists of 39 percent veteran

employment. Rivera rattles off the

names of a retired lieutenant colonel,

a retired full-bird colonel, a retired

chief petty officer and a retired major

on his management team.

He wants employees who will argue

with him, who will challenge his vision,

and he can find that in veterans and

non-traditional students who have

overcome struggles to graduate from

college. IU Southeast has its share of

non-traditional students who share

that same experience, which is why

Rivera says he love its mission of

serving the community.

His office is full of artifacts from

a life full of adventures and

accomplishments: A globe made

up of minerals from every country

represented on the sphere; a special

place on his bookshelf for his broad-

brimmed drill sergeant hat; a humidor

bearing the Seal of the President of

the United States; a wall lined with his

degrees and recognitions.

Though Rivera can’t delve into the

“When

you think

you’re

done,

you’re

not even

close.

You have

gears

left.”

highly-classified territory of his cyber

warfare work, he did shed light on the

importance of the field.

“Everyone thinks wars are fought on

the ground,” he said. “Wars are fought

electronically. Exponentially more

lives have been saved on the cyber

front than on the ground because of

the intelligence that we get and the

knowledge that we gather about our

enemies.”

PAYING IT FORWARD

Rivera believes that putting good into

the world makes life more fulfilling.

“I’m a firm believer in just keep giving

back,” he said.

Through funds his company raises,

Rivera supports Paralyzed Veterans

of America, the Wounded Warrior

Project, the Fisher House Foundation,

Tri Kappa in Indiana and the Jim

Valvano Foundation for Cancer

Research.

Rivera and his wife, Beth, have three

children together. Their oldest,

Stephanie, 29, works at the Rivera

Group. Adam, 17, is a senior at New

Albany High School, and Josh, 13,

attends Silver Creek Middle School.

In the future, Rivera hopes to work

with IU Southeast to help support

single moms and non-traditional

students.

So when Rivera reflected on standing

on that stage at commencement,

looking out at the degree candidates

seated before him, he used one word

to describe the moment.

Cathartic.

“That was me sitting in that seat,” he

said. “There are students out there

just like me, and they need to know

that if they keep working hard at

what they love to do, their dreams

can become a reality. Where you start

doesn’t have to determine where you

end. Go for it!”