Then there's Jay Wintrob, who at age 39, has already enjoyed success in two separate careers. Wintrob had a promising legal career at prestigious O'Melveny and Myers when the position of personal assistant to Kaufman and Broad Chairman Eli Broad opened up.

"I was afraid if I passed it up I might not get another chance it's hard for attorneys to transition into other fields," Wintrob says. "I enjoyed practicing law, but I thought I might be good being on the other side of the table."

Just eight months after joining Kaufman and Broad since renamed SunAmerica Inc. Wintrob was made an officer in the company and now is president of SunAmerica Investments, which manages the parent company's $18 billion investment portfolio.

While Wintrob was willing to switch careers, Virginia Postrel has known since college what she wanted her job title to be: editor of Reason Magazine.

While studying at Princeton University, Postrel became interested in news analysis magazines, particularly Reason, which is in sync with her own libertarian views.

After graduation, she began as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal in New York and then moved to Boston to write for Inc. magazine. When her husband got a job at UCLA, she moved west with him. An associate editor position opened at Reason, which she landed, and Postrel was soon made the magazine's editor. She has held the position since 1989. "It was fate," she says.

A strong entrepreneurial spirit marks many of the 30 profiled. Martin Steele, 47, president of Aesthetic Frame & Art Services, started what is now a 100-employee company single-handedly in a West Hollywood garage. "It was my dream to be the best framer in Southern California," Steele says.

MCA Records President Jay Boberg, 38, quit college in his last quarter at UCLA to found IRS Records in the late 1970s. The label, which was later sold to a larger record company, discovered and promoted such notable bands as The Go-Go's, REM and Oingo Boingo.

Stuart Rubin, 35, co-founded Rubin-Pachulski Inc. with a childhood friend and has helped build the company into a real estate development firm with more than $150 million in properties around Los Angeles.

While the paths to early success are as varied as the individuals, a few common threads connect the up-and-comers. Topping them is strong support from family.

After graduating from UCLA, Ed Pope, the 34-year-old president and CEO of Matech Inc., started the cutting-edge biotech firm in his parents' Ventura County home. His mother still works as an administrative assistant in the company's Calabasas headquarters.

MCA's Boberg credits his family which he extends to include his close friends with keeping him grounded in a notoriously flighty industry.

"Keeping it in perspective is a big goal, and my family is a big portion of that," Boberg says. "Too many people who get into prominent positions (in this industry) are attracted by power or stature and lose track of the fact that they really should be there because they enjoy it, because it's fun."

Similarly, wanting to provide for one's family drives more than one of the up-and-comers.

Patrick McClenahan, 38, is senior vice president of production for Fox Sports Net. The father of two, including a 10-year old daughter with cerebral palsy, he credits his family with both the support and sense of responsibility that has driven him to succeed.

"Wanting to provide for your family is a great motivation," McClenahan says. "They're probably one of the key factors to the growth of my career."

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