When Sabrina McCarthy finished her M.B.A., she decided it was time to “see what else was out there.” She had been at Perseus Books Group for nine years, working in publicity, sales, marketing, business development and business management, and spent three years taking night classes at New York University's Stern School of Business. So upon graduating in 2005, she took a job at finance giant Bear Stearns. Six months later, her former boss at Perseus, COO Joe Mangan, called. “I need your help,” he said. The person who ran client services for Perseus Distribution was leaving, and Mangan thought McCarthy would be perfect for the job. She took the weekend to think about it, and within weeks she was back in her old office building—with a brand new job. Two years later, she says it was the right decision.

The vice president of client services for Perseus Distribution calls her current position “the ideal job. It combines business school, sales experience, a little bit of marketing,” and unlike the job at Bear Stearns, “it's focused on ideas and people and helping. I feel like I can have a big impact here because things are always changing and ideas are appreciated, as opposed to being in a large company, where it's hard to make a difference.” McCarthy, 33, is in charge of business development, scouting and bringing on new clients, as well as overseeing the relationships Perseus has with its current clients (there are about 50).

McCarthy started at Perseus as a publicity assistant in 1997; she then worked in the sales department for five years and in 2002 decided to go back to school for her M.B.A., attending classes at night. During the three years McCarthy was in school, she took a new job at Perseus, as director of business development at Perseus's Public Affairs unit. “I was acting as a business manager for one of the in-house imprints while I was in business school,” she says. “I was learning accounting, and then I'd go to work and apply some of the accounting.”

She finished the M.B.A. and, seeking a change, went to work as an associate director in project management for Bear Stearns. But it didn't take long for her to realize her new colleagues were “driven by something different than people in publishing. In financial services, it's really all about making money. In book publishing, everything revolves around ideas and books that are going to change people's lives. That's a lot more compelling to me than being driven just by money.” McCarthy figured she'd give the new job a year—and then Mangan called.

The year 2008 marks McCarthy's 11th year at Perseus, not counting her six-month stint at Bear Stearns. She's seen many changes over that time, and worked closely on the transition when Perseus bought CDS in 2005. From troubleshooting to helping communication between the sales department and the customer service department, she learned a lot about the distribution side of the business. Distribution differs from publishing in that “people are always coming to you because they need something,” McCarthy says. “They need help, or they are looking to increase their sales, or they are just looking for a better fit in terms of relationship. It's all about relationships, which I enjoy.”

Along with her two direct reports, McCarthy works closely with clients. Whether she's aiding Perseus's sales team in getting out a large number of a particular book and seeing the book turn into a hit, or adding stickers to books last minute in the warehouse, McCarthy revels in solving problems. “The people who run the company are all very open to our ideas. It's really rewarding to be able to say, 'Hey, I was paying attention to this and I think if we did this differently, we might save people time.' That's a lot of fun.”

Name: Sabrina McCarthy

Company: Perseus Distribution

Age: 33

Hometown: Leonia, N.J.

Education: B.A. in English, Boston College, 1997; M.B.A., New York University, 2005

How long in current job: Two years

Dream job: “It would be great to be COO of a small company. It also would be great to be an interior decorator.”

Passionate about: “Helping improve things, helping make things better. If somebody has a problem, call me and I can try and fix it.”