Position: Senior vice president, strategic programs, Tier Technologies Inc., a Reston-based provider of transaction processing and packaged software and systems integration.

Career highlights: Senior vice president, product management, National Processing Co. (since acquired by Bank of America); senior vice president, relationship management, NPC; senior vice president of marketing, stored value systems, NPC; director, membership services, Blockbuster Entertainment; vice president, business development, Associates of North America; director, Zale Corp.; executive vice president, Artege Card Services; executive vice president, Katana of America; merchandise manager, Zale; and buyer, Sanger-Harris Department Stores.

Age: 55

Education: BA, marketing, Southwest Texas State University.

Personal: Lives with wife, Judy. In the process of relocating to Reston from Louisville.

How did you get to where you are?

I'm a sixth-generation Texan. My family goes a long way in the history of Texas. And, over the years, my father was a pilot in the Air Force. I went to nine schools in 12 years, all over the world. And that gave me a unique perspective on business, people and life in general. My Texan roots brought me an independence and a vision of how things could be, not how they are. The theme of my career throughout the years would be best described as, "I can see what's next and figure out how to get there first."

In the early years of my career, I was fortunate to be able to work with the Zale jewelry family. During that entrepreneurial exposure to the Zale family, I saw how new and creative ways for retailing were brought to the market.

My first major success at "seeing what's next and getting there first" was during the Zale bankruptcy. Rather than melt jewelry returned from closed jewelry stores at a substantial loss, I created a series of 40 discount jewelry stores in Tuesday Morning locations for the sole purpose of liquidating excess returned jewelry at a much higher value. Not only did this reduce the financial loss, but it provided employment for 300 displaced Zale employees.

While at Blockbuster . . . I was given the responsibility for paper gift certificates. This was a time when color copiers and color printers were becoming high-quality, and counterfeit paper gift certificates were costing significant amounts of money.

Because of my credit card background, my vision was to replace paper gift certificates with a plastic, pre-paid card, which I was the first to call a "gift card." So I went to senior management at Blockbuster and presented my vision. . . . The initial reaction at Blockbuster was that I had lost my mind and I was told no one would ever select a gift card over a paper gift certificate at a Blockbuster store.

I requested permission to test my concept in a limited number of stores. The first test stores, I purchased 10,000 gift cards for sale. The joke at Blockbuster was that it was good that plastic did not deteriorate because they were sure I had purchased a 10,000-year supply. We sold out in 60 days.

I'm here at Tier because of the various strategic assets like Official Payments Corp. [a subsidiary of Tier, which processes tax payments for the Internal Revenue Service and 25 states and more than 1,800 local governments] and their processing of child-support payments. My vision is to take all of the assets and apply my mantra "to see what's next and figure out how" to take this synergy of companies and "get there first."

-- Judith Mbuya