Interview with CPG’s Researcher of the Year

Iris Rivera was awarded CPG’s Researcher of the Year. Katie Smith sits down with her to ask her some questions about her achievements in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you been with CPG and what is your background?

Iris: I started my I/O psychology career as a graduate student doing some consulting jobs on the side, which included leadership seminars, interview development, and team building training and facilitation through the Center for Organizational Effectiveness at Florida Tech. Afterwards, I got an internship in Valencia, Spain to work in recruitment, selection, and training for national organizations. Those experiences landed me my dream fellowship through the Army Research Institute where my Doctoral degree and dissertation were sponsored. After graduation, I came to CPG and have been with them for 2.5 years. I have a Ph.D. and a Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Florida Tech in Melbourne, which happens to be by the beach, and Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Florida. Go Gators!

Working on your dissertation while working on your tan?

Iris: Yeah, exactly!

What made you choose to go into I/O psychology?

Iris: When I was young and started undergrad I worried a little too much about what my parents thought. I always liked business but that never went over well with my parents. I think they were envisioning a surgeon or President of the U.S. In search of a happy middle ground between me and my parents, I ended up in Psychology and turns out I enjoyed it and excelled at it.  I still really enjoyed business, and I found out about Business Psychology (I/O Psychology) in one of my classes. I decided to blend my world with my parents’ world and became an I/O Psychology student. Interestingly enough, my mother has a psychology degree and my father has a business degree so I really am their lovechild!

Do you still enjoy I/O psychology?

Iris: I do, it is a nice blend of psychology and business. It doesn’t solely focus on return on investment, output, and efficiency. Instead, it focuses more on the employee and how to empower them to help the business strive. I like that view of the field. Plus, I love that I get to constantly change my job. Since I have to integrate myself into the job by observing the job and conducting interviews, I’ve experienced a lot of interesting jobs like being a sales associate, accountant, video-game developer, incoming Private in the Army, military planner, and a Commander in the military, just to name a few. Always keeps the job interesting!

Tell me about Researcher of the Year, what was your big project and contribution that won you the award?

Iris: I was the assistant program manager on the Decisions Training Toolkit, under PMTRASYS and sponsored by JIEDDO. This toolkit consisted of four thrusts where I was the lead on the second thrust, the Scenario Design Tool. It is a great interactive tool that allows Warfighters to interact with an interface to select and design the training that they want to do. It saves time and makes sure that the training they are doing is cognitively-authentic and based on real decisions that they would encounter in any area of operation. For this tool, I managed and worked in the team that developed the interface and functions of the tool. I also helped with the background development of the tool involving interviews and analysis of data.

What career advice do you have for other budding psychologists, I/O or otherwise?

Iris: I would say, remain flexible. The biggest thing I have learned since I started my career at the Army Research Institute is that you have to be ready to change at a moment’s notice. Be willing and ready to quickly change your data collection technique or to take on an extra team member or lose team members in mid-project. There is constant change in this line of work. You have to be creative, flexible, and willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

Which work at CPG are you most proud of?

Iris: Well, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I wouldn’t let anything go out the door that I wasn’t proud of and CPG works on such fun projects that it is hard to pick. If I had to pick, my favorite two projects to work on as a team were the Scenario Design Tool for the Decisions Training Toolkit and building a competency model for planners.  The competency model was fun and interesting because I got to talk to some pretty unique people with specialized skill sets.  The demand for building competency models is increasing so it is great to be at an organization that has the expertise to do that.

Thank you for taking the time to speak about this exciting honor and telling us a little about your work at CPG. Again, Congratulations on Researcher of the Year! We are very proud of you and look forward to seeing what you accomplish over the next year!


About the Author:


Cognitive Performance Group, LLC is a woman-owned small business with offices in Orlando, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded by Dr. Karol G. Ross, Jennifer K. Phillips, and William A. Ross. The three CPG Principals developed the concept for a company to support cognitive performance improvement in industry and government. (more...)

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