Bryan Gansner

Designer at Morristown Automatic Sprinkler Co. (an APi Group company) in Knoxville, Tennessee. Retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant

In my opinion, there are three types of leaders: natural leaders, trained leaders, and those fortunate enough to be both. I was actually kind of a meek kid when I was attending high school in Festus, Missouri. But being a leader came naturally to me after I joined the Army in 1996, and by the end of my military career, I’d become an assistant platoon sergeant and squad leader in charge of 20 soldiers and three interpreters, plus 60 soldiers I would look after as needed. Additionally, I was responsible for the mission planning of my squad and analyzing the given intel of a region, selecting a destination, and choosing the routes. The main focus of my missions was providing over watch ensuring that the Iraqi Army soldiers guarding the oil pipeline were doing their job, and that the routes were free of IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. And it was my job to help ensure my soldiers avoided them and made it back home safe and sound.

Encountering an IED

Unfortunately, in 2006, during my second deployment to Iraq, I encountered an IED. It shattered my heels and ankles, shredded my right leg, broke my right wrist, and caused a traumatic brain injury. I spent 19 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. undergoing more than a dozen surgeries and intense physical therapy. I retired from the Army in 2008.

In September 2015, I was fortunate enough to be a beneficiary of APi Group’s participation in the Hiring Our Heroes initiative, and I’m now a designer at Morristown Sprinkler where I use computer-aided design to help design sprinkler systems that meet the demands of our customers based on hazard and water supply. I had some experience with AutoCAD and drafting in high school, but I’ve learned a lot through on-the-job training as well.

Being a Great Leader Means Getting Back Up

I’ve also tried to expand my self-leadership skills utilizing APi Group’s Building Great Leaders e-learning curriculum. The curriculum’s three modules talk about leading self, leading others, and leading teams and businesses. I like to review these modules from time to time. I may not succeed at every task, but I find having focus on being a great leader helps me “get back up.” I can think of a few times I’ve slipped during my time here. The biggest was a poorly designed system that required extra fittings, pipe adjustments, and time on the installers’ part to correct my error. I was pretty bummed and full of self-doubt for a bit. But I got up, brushed my knees off, and kept going — and I haven’t made that mistake again. As with everything, it’s not if you fall but whether you can get back up and learn from it.

Being in the military taught me how to work with, and lead, all types of people. It gave me confidence in my abilities, and it opened my eyes to the world around me. All of these lessons have really helped when it comes to being a leader in the civilian sector.