6. Brian Deese
40u40 main brian deese
Age: 34

Deputy director, National Economic Council

Never mind that the success of Deese's first White House project -- the auto industry bailout -- could give President Obama's reelection campaign a critical edge in the industrial Midwest. With the economic recovery still sputtering, he's focused on helping the President create jobs and provide relief. Congressional gridlock makes progress tough, so the Belmont, Mass., native counts wins in smaller increments, pointing to efforts his team has designed: a $4 billion public-private partnership to retrofit commercial buildings, for example, or a streamlined mortgage-refinancing program that's kept a half-million people in their homes this year. "The cumulative impact of doing a lot of things like that can matter," Deese says, though he believes the remaining challenges require much bigger solutions—and more cooperation in Washington to get them done.

Networking tip: Ask real, difficult questions. People appreciate that more than small talk.

--Tory Newmyer


  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated October 17 2012 05:11 PM ET
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