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MMI Grad Makes History as First Black Female Harley-Davidson Tech in Her State

Oct 28, 2020 ·
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At just 25, recent MMI Orlando graduate Paris McGowan didn’t plan on making history — it just sort of happened! She has become the first Black female Harley-Davidson® technician in Missouri.

When asked how it felt to find out that she had made history, Paris laughs, saying she was in disbelief. “I was kind of like whatever, no way!” Her enthusiasm for motorcycles is apparent. “I just wanted to be able to fix my own bike and work on other ones…” she elaborates. “I never thought I would be making history and be all over the news!”

In a male-dominated industry, Paris was able to carve out her own lane and pursue an education that has led to her success in the field.1 Learn more about Paris’ experience at MMI and how her love for bikes led to where she is today.

An Early Love for Harley-Davidson

From a young age, motorcycles have been in the picture for Paris. “Both of my parents ride,” she explains. “There’s also this picture of me as a young kid sitting on my uncle’s motorcycle.”

Despite her family’s affinity for Harley-Davidson, Paris says that when she was younger, as a nature lover, fields like marine biology and mineralogy interested her. Things took a hard left after she bought her own motorcycle.

Paris would go into the Harley-Davidson shop from time to time, and one of the employees suggested she apply for a job there. The day she went in for an interview, she says, there was a bike sitting in the middle of the parking lot. People were stopping to look at it, and so did she. The rest is history.

She went in for the interview and got the job. Afterward, she told them, “I’ll be back in 30 minutes to buy this bike.” Getting her motorcycle was one of the major reasons she decided she wanted to pursue an education to become a technician.

Taking the Next Step at MMI

Later that same night, Paris was watching TV and saw a commercial for the motorcycle program at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI). She had never seen the commercial before, but it made her realize that she could be pursuing a career as a motorcycle tech.

The job at the Harley-Davidson dealership had Paris selling merchandise on the retail side, but she wanted more. She says that she would sneak off to the back sometimes to watch the technicians, wishing she could be doing what they were doing.

The morning after seeing the commercial, Paris announced to her parents that she had decided to get the education she needed to pursue her passion. She applied to the MMI campus in Orlando, Florida, and made the move from St. Louis.

The process was nerve-wracking at first, she says, as it was her first time being away from home and all she knew. At the same time, she had always wanted to live in Florida, and taking the necessary steps towards her future made it a complete adventure.

Gaining Valuable Experience

As one of the few females at MMI, often the only one in her classes, it took some time for Paris to feel comfortable. Another thing adding to her nerves was that she didn’t have any prior hands-on experience working on motorcycles.

“I was kind of out there in the blue and felt like everyone knew what they were doing. I didn’t even know what half the tools were,” she explains.

From getting to class early to staying late, Paris had the determination and drive to learn as much as she could. It was this attitude that showed her classmates she was serious about what she was doing. One of her favorite memories, she says, was being accepted “into the pack” and feeling like she belonged.

Despite not having background knowledge or experience working on motorcycles before coming to school, MMI was able to give her a foundation to build a career on.5 The program’s classes allowed her to make good habits and build off them throughout her time there. “MMI was definitely that stepping stone,” she says.

Learning During a Pandemic

During the middle of Paris’ program, the unexpected happened. The COVID-19 pandemic hit and took everyone by surprise. When in-person classes were put on pause, she flew home to St. Louis and resumed her studies online.

There was definitely a learning curve without the hands-on component of labs and demos available. While this was difficult, she was able to return to campus and finish her labs in person. The videos and lessons she had watched online were helpful, as students were allowed to combine them with the in-person demos.

Paris was able to graduate in September 2020 with the experience needed to enter the workforce, despite the challenges the pandemic brought. It was time for the next chapter to begin.

Exciting New Beginnings

After her graduation from MMI with a specialization in Harley-Davidson, Paris went back to St. Louis. With the state of the world being so uncertain and the pandemic still affecting so many people, she was worried about leaving school and not having a job for a long time.

She didn’t have to worry for long. After being in town for a few days, she was offered a job at a different Harley-Davidson shop. And this time, she’s not just selling merchandise.

“I’m happy to be wrenching,” she explains. “Most people don’t go straight into working on bikes and have to work their way up. I was offered to work on bikes fresh out of school.”6

When asked how she was able to get a job so quickly post-graduation, Paris attributes the success to her education from MMI. They helped with getting her résumé out to the job market and assisted her as she applied for positions. “Thanks to MMI honestly,” she says. “Without them, I don’t think that I would have found a job so quickly.”

Looking Toward the Future

With an MMI education under her belt and a job working for her favorite motorcycle brand, things are going well for Paris. Her hardworking nature and passion for working on bikes have her looking toward even bigger things for the future.

 “I am definitely pushing to be a master tech for Harley-Davidson,” she says, and also is wanting to fabricate her own bike at some point. She would love to create something completely new and work with the brand to make it possible.

As far as advice for other females wanting to pursue a career in the same or similar fields, Paris is straightforward. “Go for it. If you want to be anything that isn’t the norm for women, go for it.”

She went for it—and she was able to earn an education doing something she loved. This education has allowed her to find success after graduating and has set her on the right path for achieving her dreams down the line.

Train for a Career at MMI

Do you have the same passion as Paris and want to pursue a career as a motorcycle tech? You can make your dreams a reality and be trained in less than a year.7 Find out more details on the program here, or request information to connect with an Admissions Representative today.

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1) MMI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.

5) UTI programs prepare graduates for careers in industries using the provided training, primarily as automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle and marine technicians. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than as a technician, such as: parts associate, service writer, fabricator, paint and paint prep, and shop owner/operator. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

6) UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

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