Anna Luby, 51
(Fortune Magazine) -- Then: Luby earned a bachelor's degree in social work 30 years ago but couldn't find a job in the field, so she went into sales instead, most recently as a national account manager for Estée Lauder.
Still, the urge to make a difference never went away, and Luby found herself putting in more and more time volunteering at a battered-women's shelter. She now works full-time at the Alaska Women's Resource Center in Anchorage, where most of the clients she counsels are Native Alaskan. Luby is half Panamanian, so "I'm used to straddling two cultures."
Now: This fall Luby will start taking classes at the University of Alaska toward a master's degree in social work. One of the program's requirements is a 20-hour-a-week internship, for which she'll serve as a court-appointed guardian in Alaska's court system.
"I was told they hired me for that because of my business background, especially scheduling and setting priorities," she says. Now that she's come full circle back to social work, Luby expects to stay in it "for the next 20 years. I counsel women who are afraid that it's too late to change their lives. But I tell them it's never too late."