A Career Slam Dunk: How Alésia Stewart is Combining Coding With a Passion for Basketball

While working on her senior project in college, Alésia Stewart faced a daunting task — develop a desktop application using Python. An industrial engineering student at the time, Alésia didn’t know much about coding. The only resources at her disposal were online videos, which made learning the language a slow process. 

“I spent the entire time not having Python correctly installed on my computer,” she recalled. 

That experience piqued Alésia’s interest in coding, and she was eager to improve her skills. She met with a friend who completed Northwestern Coding Boot Camp, and their conversation solidified her interest in applying. At first, Alésia’s goal was simply to become a better industrial engineer, but along the way she found an exciting and unexpected outlet for her newfound skills — sports analytics. 

Here’s more about Alésia’s journey through the boot camp — and how coding gave her career and hobbies a boost. 

Gathering new coding and collaboration skills 

When Alésia joined the boot camp, she was already working full-time as an operations supervisor at Fast Radius, Inc. Juggling work and the boot camp was no easy feat, but she managed it by allotting time each day to practice. In addition to improving her foundational skills in Python and SQL, Alésia developed skills in web scraping and core coding languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. And the soft skills she learned along the way proved to be just as valuable.

“I knew how to collaborate on a project, but never with code,” she said. “Time management and project management were also huge.” 

Discovering an interest in sports analytics 

Those new skills started to click even more when Alésia had a chance to work on group projects with her classmates. The most memorable project involved her favorite sport: basketball. Alésia and her teammates created a machine learning algorithm that could determine the probability of a Chicago Bulls player sinking a basket based on where they were shooting from on the court. 

Since completing the boot camp, Alésia’s taken her interest in sports analytics even further. She’s currently analyzing the shooting percentage of her favorite player, Derrick Rose; looking for patterns in Steph Curry’s shooting; and trying to predict which G league players would be valuable assets to a team. In the future, she hopes she can turn this hobby into a career. 

“I want to help WNBA, NBA, or college teams make decisions on drafting and developing players using data analytics,” said Alésia. “After one of my favorite basketball players, Kobe Bryant, died, I became interested in the field. There’s not a lot of women, let alone people of color, in sports analytics.” 

Putting Python into practice at work 

Until then, Alésia is happy to be working in her new role as an operations industrial engineer trainee at the United States Postal Service. She’s even come full circle, developing her own code using Python. When Alésia inputs a CSV file, the code produces a root cause analysis on parcel failures at the Brooklyn Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) and the number of runs executed each day, week, and month for the autonomous forklifts in the facility. 

Needless to say, Alésia has made big strides since her first encounter with Python in college. With new experiences under her belt, she has some advice to share with future participants of the boot camp. 

“Go in there with an open mind, and know that there will be days when you want to quit,” Alésia said. “In the end, it’s going to be worth it, but you get what you put in. There are a lot of resources available to you and you should use them to your full capability.” 

Ready to embark on a coding journey of your own? Check out Northwestern Boot Camps in coding, fintech, cybersecurity, and data science and visualization to learn more. 

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