From Afghanistan to The Iron Yard

LeRoy Gardner III
3 min readMar 4, 2015
Flying out of Kabul to Gardez, May 2014 — Me.

Twelve hour work days approximately seven days per week, donning and doffing body armor, magazines, weapons and helmet. Weekly meetings with an Afghan General, coming “home” to a base that was no more than a mile long and half that wide.

Any free time I had was spent with my eyeballs on my Macbook copying tutorial after tutorial. But never the idea in my head could I execute. Sometimes I even struggled with the tutorial. Okay most times.

Cue the siren song and allure of “The Rage Quit”.

I didn't give in but realised the process needed to change since I wasn't getting the outcome I sought.

I reached out to Jesse Wolgamott while working through one of the tutorials, all the way from Kabul to Houston.

He helped and the tone of email, was a harbinger of things to come. I just knew that I had to commit to learning full-time, with something to lose to make it meaningful. Tutorials and more simply felt a bit like a dalliance. I convinced my wife that supporting this was the right decision because she’d seen me work years on my own to learn Ruby on Rails. She supported. I signed up, interviewed with Dorton (our Houston Campus Director) and Jesse Wolgamott and was excited to be accepted.

We're half way through it has been immensely challenging. I've had to embrace all of the cliche baggage written about learning programming and such. Imposter Syndrome all over the place. Imposter Syndrome aside, when I look back at day one, I have come very far. The only problem is that unless someone points it out, or asks you to step back and think about it, I only feel far away from my goal.

The power is in the process, acquisition of some knowledge, application of some knowledge, and then finally systematic assimilation. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

This hasn't happened in a vacuum, simply ask some of the other members of my cohort — Spencer, Justin, Vitaliy and Danny — because I’ve created a chain-of-command for when I ask for help. Spencer and Justin firstly they are like a team, Danny next and finally when all else fails Big V aka Vitaliy. I learned quickly to just get to it — “Do you have time for me to disrupt your work flow right now?” These dudes don't know it but they've helped me a bunch along the way — there were times when I thought I wouldn’t solve an issue. StackOverflow, Googles and all the interwebs hadn't helped. But my buddies did.

Overall this experience has been what I needed to get where I wanted. Period. I am getting to where I wanted to be. I am getting to where I saw myself.

What is that worth to me? Much.

My mantra has been to remember from whence I’ve come. It helps keep me sane.

I am glad I am not in Afghanistan anymore.



LeRoy Gardner III

Curious. Love technology to solve problems. Builder at RecruitAI - Building better student-athlete recruiting.