One Student’s Journey From Professional Basketball Player to Data Scientist

Posted by Flatiron School Students  /  October 22, 2019

Sabatino Chen Blog

From Basketball to Big Data…

“It’s okay if it feels impossible in the beginning you have to remind yourself it’s brand new and to build skill sets take time and practice.”


Meet Flatiron School Grad Sabatino Chen!  He majored in math and then went on to play professional basketball in Asia.  He completed the online data science program and is now living in Spain. After an injury, he decided he needed a new game plan. Read here how Sabatino swapped out his sneakers and hoops to pursue a career that he found intriguing and challenging for his future:

You played basketball throughout college then continued to play professionally in Asia.  What was that experience like?

My experience playing and living in Taiwan and throughout Asia was amazing!  It was my first time going out of the country all on my own and having to adapt and get used to a completely different culture and lifestyle. This really gave me a wonderful perspective on how there is just so much the world has to offer outside of the U.S.

What is the transition from challenging yourself physically to the rigors of mentally challenging yourself in bootcamp?

I think the main transition is just being okay with not understanding a concept or code the first time around or even several times around. The hardest part for me was just recognizing that I was learning something completely new and that like anything else, basketball included, you have to work and practice to become proficient. It’s okay if it feels impossible in the beginning you have to remind yourself it’s brand new and to build skill sets take time and practice.

Sabatino Chen Quote

You majored in math at UC Boulder which is a great primer for analytics.  How did you discover your passion to pivot to data science?

I think what led me to pivot to data science was the fact that in college I chose to major in math because I never wanted to feel pigeon-holed into a career. I thought math would be a great base for many different kinds of professions. The more I learned about data science, I felt similarly that I never had to choose a certain industry to be a data scientist. The world is changing faster than ever with AI and machine learning and all different types of businesses and industries need data scientists to help solve problems and that intrigued me the most.

Tell us how you approach networking.  What success stories can you share with other students.

I guess I approach networking with just an all out shotgun approach. I want to have chats and connect with as many people as I can, starting from my inner circle and then progressing outwards.  It’s really helpful connecting with Flatiron School alumni since they have been through the entire process and their insight are extremely valuable. Reconnecting with old friends or colleagues has been extremely successful for me in getting my resumes passed up to HR or getting introduced to different people in the data science field from analysts all the way up to CEO’s.

What is your dream job and how will you eventually ascertain it?

I don’t know if I have an actual specific dream job, but I am looking for a job in which I can be a part of a great team and work culture, and then to be in a place where I can learn and grow as much as possible. I believe the best way I can ascertain this is by researching and networking to gain as much insight and advice about potential jobs/companies to see if they align with what I am looking for.

What advice do you have for students who simply don’t know how to start their job search?

My biggest advice would be to just start something each day whether it’s reading blog posts or just looking at and applying for jobs on LinkedIn. It can feel pretty overwhelming if you think about all the things you should be doing which is why I focus on one step at a time. What has worked for me is to just pick something each day to pursue and that gets my momentum rolling and leads me from one thing to the next.

Career coach Jessica Mooney on how Sabatino’s job search is showing great signs of successful:

“Sabatino maintains an incredibly positive and upbeat outlook, takes responsibility for his actions and is owning the direction of his success. He is upfront and direct about his needs and how I can support him and takes initiative in his communications with me.”