When he enrolled in college, Riera was not sure whether he wanted to pursue a career in law or business. Experiencing classes in law as well as advertising and business, Riera found that he had a passion for marketing and sales and what makes people buy. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in marketing from Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts, Riera jumped right into the world of sales as a door-to-door salesman for MCI, selling long-distance phone plans to small businesses—almost solely on commission.
"I had lots of feedback from professors and people I knew that sales was a fast-track position—if you could be good in sales, it would afford you some abilities in the corporate world," Riera reflected.
At only 22 years old, Riera began accumulating significant background in sales while working at MCI. As a manager for MCI at the age of 26, Riera had begun to establish a definite outline of his career objectives and goals. At this time, he also found a mentor in one of his older colleagues who was getting ready to close out her career in sales, having flourished and succeeded. Encouraging and guiding Riera's objectives and goals, his colleague made an impression on him.
"She really took me under her wing and taught me the fundamentals of the business at a level that I was able to see and touch very early on in my career," Riera said. "She taught me everything you need to do in order to be successful, whether it was managing the financial side of the business, overseeing the people side of the business, or networking within your own organization."
After working for MCI and then General Electric, Riera went on to work for Equant. While he was working as a regional sales director for Equant, at the age of 30, he was made the vice president of sales and marketing for North America, a position that could overwhelm anyone at that age. Armed with the valuable knowledge and advice he had gained during his career so far, Riera took on the challenge with the support of his boss, who said he "had the right bones for the job."
Having joined the team at Gateway a little more than two years ago, Riera has advanced from vice president of government sales to his present role as vice president of professional sales. He oversees non-consumer organizations in education; state, local, and federal government; business; and indirect sales. Gateway's public-sector business consists of more than 20,000 customers representing nearly 4 million desktops and portables throughout the U.S.
Riera and his sales team work tenaciously to market Gateway's innovative products and solutions to its customers throughout different professional fields, contributing to its standing as the third-ranking PC company in the United States and one of the top 10 in the world. While working for Gateway, Riera has come to appreciate the company's unique culture and employee loyalty, as many of its employees have been with the company for years, reaching back to its inception.
Having worked for monster companies like MCI, General Electric, Equant, and now Gateway, Riera has learned a valuable collection of professional lessons throughout the years. The keys to his success are derived from his identification of his own ambitions and goals at an early point in his career and the discipline it has taken to make them happen.
Referring to what it takes to be a success in sales, or any business, Riera said, "I think a lot of it is focus. I would say first and foremost it's focus and knowing exactly what you want to accomplish personally and professionally in life and absolutely going for it, because if you don't take risks, you'll never get there." This focus needs to stay consistent in everything one does professionally.
"Are you making a decision that's short-term, or are you making a decision that aligns with the focus of your long-term goals and objectives?" Riera asked. He has also picked up a piece of helpful advice that has stuck with him through his years of working in business: "The most important thing you'll ever do is follow up. You have to follow up on absolutely everything—even to say you're not interested or moving on."
Outside of his career, Riera has a very active life with his family and hobbies. With his wife, who works as a college professor, and their three little girls, a five-and-a-half-year-old and one-year-old twins, Riera enjoys getting out and riding bikes. Before he goes in to work everyday, or whenever he can, Riera loves to run—he's even run in the Chicago Marathon three times, and he is preparing for another marathon in January.