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An Olivetti electric typewriter sits behind Robin Eisenbrei. A worn, scuffed calculator rests on her desk. Eisenbrei used these office tools daily when she joined Morrison Metalweld Process Corp. as a secretary in 1983. Today, she still depends on these dated but ever-functional tools to perform her duties as the company's president.
"She's still running pretty well," Eisenbrei says affectionately of the typewriter. "I guess when she goes I'm going to have to get myself a computer."
But this 44-year-old Youngstown native is no backwater executive.
In fact, in her industry, Eisenbrei is a trailblazer.
She is believed to be the first woman chief executive in Ohio--and one of the first in the nation--to own a national company that services the railroad industry. She did this by leading a group of investors in buying the company in March.
Furthermore, Eisenbrei became the first woman to be accepted into key industry groups such as the Cleveland Roamers Railroad Association in 2000. In the mid-1990s, she became the first woman to join the Railway Club of Pittsburgh, and served as its first female president in 1997-1998.
Her professional journey from secretary to president became all the more challenging because the railroad industry was--and still is--an old-boys' club. Eisenbrei has had straggles with some men in the railroad business who simply did not take her seriously. Even though she's built a professional reputation during the past two decades, she must still fend off these outdated attitudes.
Eisenbrei used a casual sense of humor, a lot of hard work and the drive to learn anything and everything about the railroad industry to overcome many of these obstacles. But another person--mentor Gary L. Smith, the former president of Morrison Metalweld who now serves as Eisenbrei's senior adviser--helped Eisenbrei achieve her dream.
After becoming president of Morrison Metalweld in 2003, Eisenbrei traveled to an international trade show in Dallas, where she was greeted with congratulations from her male colleagues, although many appeared to be surprised at her new position.
"As I walked …