Behind the Cube: Lalitha Agnihotri, Lead Data Scientist
Published April 22, 2021
Ever wonder what it’s like work as a data scientist at a Learning Science company? In our “Behind the Cube” series, we introduce an employee who embodies our mission, passion and values. For this month’s Behind the Cube, meet Lalitha Agnihotri, Lead Data Scientist on our Higher Education team.
Time working at McGraw Hill: 7 years
Division/Department: Higher Ed
Based in/Location: Georgia
Questions and Answers:
Tell us a bit about you and your career journey at McGraw Hill.
I joined McGraw Hill back in December of 2013 as a part of the newly formed Data Science team in our Digital Platform Group (DPG). I have worked on a number of exciting projects over the years: various visualizations of how students are using our Connect platform for higher education, and projects with institutions like the College of Health Care Professions and Colorado State University to improve their student outcomes. This past year, I moved from DPG to our Higher Ed team and am working on a number of different projects to alleviate instructor workload and help students with procrastination.
Can you share what it’s like to be a Data Scientist at McGraw Hill and tell us about the research you do?
Being a Data Scientist at McGraw Hill is challenging and rewarding. Right now, I am working on an automated feedback project. The goal is to provide short writing assignments to students that are automatically graded on a rubric. This way, the instructor can assign a number of these without having to worry about spending the time to grade them. I am working to ensure the models that we use to do this grading are reliable and are operating well.
I have also come up with a quantitative way to detect procrastination in students. We are working on ways to ameliorate procrastination in students by building nudges into our products that will help students complete their work on time.
What does a typical workday look like for you, and how has your work changed due to COVID-19?
My typical workday has very few meetings and big chunks of time to dive into the data and the analysis that I am working on. I meet with my team once or twice a week and from time to time, I’ll meet with instructors as well as our Learning Science Advisory Board. I am part of the Learning Science Council, the team at McGraw Hill that interacts with the board, in order to make sure that we are bringing the best learning science principles and practices to our work and products. My work did not change much with COVID-19, except I don’t travel like I used to. I have been a remote employee since I started at McGraw Hill, and I used to travel to various conferences to present my work, and also teach Python bootcamps. I really miss the times where I could travel, brainstorm with my teammates, and get energy from each other.
What are some of your favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?
I love making jewelry, epoxy art, etc. with my 13-year-old. I love hiking and get out on every occasion I can to hike, either solo or with family or friends. My family—including my husband, son (Taran, 18), daughters (Nikita, 16 and Isha, 13)—love traveling and cruising. We have gone to France, Spain, India, Mexico, Bahamas, Dominican Republic and many locations within the U.S. for vacations. We can’t wait for this pandemic to be over so we can cruise again!
What would you tell a job seeker about working at McGraw Hill to encourage them to apply?
It is wonderful to be a part of an institution whose goal is teaching and learning. We consider ourselves a learning science company and we are all about leveraging resources: books, instructors, online platforms, etc., to improve the odds of student success. We are strong proponents of data privacy and protection and feel a duty to handle data properly.
I have been here an incredible seven years and can only imagine what the next seven (and more!) will bring. I am constantly amazed at how sharp people are and how passionate everyone is about what they do. I feel proud to say that I am a part of a company that puts student learning above all.
At McGraw Hill, helping students learn, grow, and unlock their full potential is a team effort. Whether we work in product development, marketing, sales, engineering or elsewhere in the company, each of us makes an impact.