From Motorcycle Mechanic to MBA

Josh Henry T’18 is using his degree to make waves in the automotive industry and do a lap around the track.

Motorcycle fanatic Josh Henry T’18 couldn’t believe his luck. Federico Minoli, a former CEO of Ducati, was planning a visit to Tuck. 

Minoli was planning to speak in a course taught by Giovanni Gavetti, associate professor of business administration, who previously authored a case study on the Italian motorcycle company.

“Minoli is the godfather of modern Ducati,” Josh says. “He helped to shape Ducati into what it is today.” 

Josh has been enamored by motorcycles and racing ever since he was a teenager, having worked two jobs to afford his first bike just out of high school. For Josh, who had a difficult childhood as the son of a single mother, motorcycles were a guiding light that kept him off the streets and out of trouble. “Without that, I don’t know if I would have ever had that type of focus,” he says.  

Josh began racing in his native Louisiana and turned pro, appearing at famous tracks like Daytona Speedway. When the recession caused a bumpy ride in 2007, however, Josh lost his sponsorships and his job as a motorcycle mechanic. He enrolled in community college and was placed in a lower level math course. After he decided to read his entire algebra textbook over seven months, he advanced out of basic math and transferred to the University of Georgia on a scholarship where he went on to graduate Cum Laude with a math and economics degree.

“It was an amazing point in my life because it taught me that I could be a really good student, and I could major in rigorous subjects,” Josh says. “You can do whatever you want to as long as you’re willing to work for it. You can be born to a single mom and have setbacks as a young person, but if you really, really want something you can do it.”

Tuck was Josh’s first choice when he was looking at MBA programs, which he hoped would provide financial stability to cover his racing expenses and get him back on the racetrack. He liked Tuck’s strong reputation, personalized attention, and the freedom to shape his studies so he could focus on the automotive industry. So, on that day when Ducati’s Minoli visited Tuck, Josh jumped on the opportunity to meet him.

There’s never been an American CEO of Ducati, and there’s never been an African-American running an Italian automaker, but to get from Tuck to there is a lot easier than to get from my origins to Tuck.

“We had a coffee chat in Byrne, and I told him my story, and he told me it was incredible and that he wanted to host me in Bologna in March,” Josh says. “So instead of completing a Global Insight Expedition during my spring break, I went on what I called the ‘Ducati Pilgrimage.’”

While at Ducati, Josh made valuable connections and got a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s operations. He toured the factory, met the VP of strategy of Audi (Audi owns Ducati), and did a live radio interview with one of the company’s brand managers. Nothing, however, revved Josh up more than Minoli’s offer to host Josh at his home for dinner.

“If you would have asked me when I was 10 or 12 years old, when I was going crazy over motorcycles, that I would be sitting down in Italy with the former CEO of Ducati eating pasta, talking about Ducati, I would have never believed you,” he says. “Even to this day I still don’t believe that it happened.” 

Josh Henry T'18 with motorcycle

In his own words, Josh Henry T’18 lives and breathes motorcycles—so he wanted to find a way to build a career around his passion.

Josh knew he wanted to shape his studies at Tuck to focus on the automotive industry, so one of the first things he did was embark on a First-Year Project with Ford Motor Co. In doing so, he had the opportunity to work with John Casesa T’86, former vice president of global strategy at Ford, and other executives in Michigan, where the automaker is headquartered. 

Now that Josh has more financial and automotive expertise under his belt, he’s planning to work with Gavetti on a follow-up to the Ducati case and hopes for a chance to meet Ducati’s current CEO. After graduation this summer, Josh will be joining major consulting firm PwC in Chicago which will be a great opportunity, he says, to get real-world exposure to the consulting industry and continue to focus on racing professionally—but he hasn’t forgotten about his aspirations to one day become CEO of Ducati.

“Yes, there’s never been an American CEO of Ducati, and there’s never been an African-American running an Italian automaker,” he says, “but to get from Tuck to there is a lot easier than to get from my origins to Tuck.”