Grudin is a pioneer of the field of CSCW and one of its most prolific contributors. His collaboration distance to other Human Computer Interaction researchers has been described by the Grudin number, similar to the Erdős number in mathematics. Prior to working at Microsoft Research, Grudin was a Professor of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine from 1991 to 1998.
His career has spanned numerous institutions.
He worked at Wang Laboratories as a Computer Programmer (1974–1975 and 1983–1986). He was a Visiting Scientist in the Psychology and Artificial Intelligence Laboratories at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1976–1979) and then a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Postdoctoral Fellow at the Medical Research Council’s Applied Psychology Unit (now known as the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (1982–1983)).
He spent from 1986-1989 at the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation before taking a series of faculty positions (including visiting professorships) at Aarhus University (1989–1991), the University of California, Irvine (1991–1998), Keio University (1995) and the University of Oslo (1997). From 1997 to 2003, he was Editor-in-Chief of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), one of the most prestigious journals in the field of Human Computer Interaction. Grudin was inducted into the selective Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGCHI Centre Hospitalier Intercommunal Academy in 2004.
In 2012, he was made an Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Fellow for "contributions to human computer interaction with an emphasis on computer supported cooperative work." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and physics from Reed College (1972), a Master of Surgery in mathematics from Purdue University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in cognitive psychology from the University of California, San Diego (1981), where he was advised by Donald Norman.