Colorado native Tammy Rivera has lived the familiar saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Originally from Sterling in the northeastern part of the state, Rivera received a degree from Colorado State University and moved to Colorado Springs in 2000 to work for national accounting firm BKD LLP.

Through her hard work and leadership, the 39-year-old has increased the firm’s health care clientele and created a program to allow BKD staff to succeed, regardless of gender.

But in 2012, a few weeks after the birth of her daughter, Rivera’s home burned to the ground in the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire, losing practically everything she owned.

“Nothing, not even fire loss, stops Tammy from being her best at home and at work,” said Travis Webb, BKD managing partner who nominated Rivera for the award. “She simply takes these losses as opportunities to rebuild and move forward.”

[su_note note_color=”#7db9ff”]Personal Mantra: “Work hard, play hard. I put a lot of energy into my career and equal amounts of energy into my personal life. My husband and two daughters are my center. They are the reason I try so hard to be effective and efficient. I want to spend any extra time I have enjoying life and the fruits of my labor. I don’t take one moment for granted, and I’m always trying to live life to the fullest and embark on adventures at every opportunity.”[/su_note]

Rivera was a CSBJ 2010 Rising Star and has served on BKD’s national SKY council for two years, looking for ways to make a positive impact on the professionals at BKD.

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“The sky is wide open,” she said. “The initiative is creating an entire cultural shift at our firm and one of our goals is to attract, retain, develop and advance women leaders.”

Rivera said the initiative is important to her because of her two daughters.

“I want them to know they can be anything they want and can achieve their dreams,” she said.

“There are so many studies that talk about how diverse teams generate better results financially. Women and men may have differences in how they think, network, coach and navigate their careers, but individually both have so much to offer.”

Career challenges for men and women are different but can be successfully navigated with great leadership and role models, she said.

“I was fortunate to have so many female leaders in the early stages of my career,” Rivera said.

“We have more women entering the accounting profession, but still only have 19 percent of female representation at the partner level. I think much of that is due to the lack of female leadership and young women professionals not having positive role models in how to advance. “

Rivera has served as a board member for Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Southern Colorado for seven years and helped develop the Women in Leadership Program for Colorado’s Healthcare Financial Management Association chapter.

“My passion is leading change and being a part of something bigger than myself,” she said.

“I work hard because it affords me the opportunity to engage in firm initiatives and in our community.”

Webb said Rivera has truly become a woman of influence — in an important sector within the community.

“Tammy never has a bad day,” he said, “and her infectious ‘glass-is-half -full’ attitude on even the worst of days is one of her strongest leadership skills.”

— Amber Baillie