I have found that grad school involves a lot more group work than undergrad did, which was something I wasn’t expecting. I would’ve expected it if I was getting a MBA, but not for computer science. However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense that group work is an integral part of grad school.
Grad school (and academia) usually involves working on large research projects. And rarely do these projects only involve one or two researchers. Instead, lots of researchers come together, each taking a small chunk (that may or may not overlap directly with someone else’s work) and work together to further a larger goal. On it’s own, your research is (hopefully) somewhat impressive. But when combined with the progress of everyone else involved, that’s how the large steps forward are made.
I’ve mentioned often that I work as part of a research team. And while we don’t always directly work on overlapping projects, there’s still a sense of a group dynamic. I know what the others are working on, just like they know what I’m working on. We point out flaws and other avenues to explore to each other and provide another view point. But we also celebrate together in our successes. While our research may not overlap right now, it’s hard (if not impossible) to predict where our research will lead us in the future, and how our research may come together then.
Group work gives you a chance to play on your strengths while relying on others to help you out with your weaknesses. It also means learning to play well with others – not something that all grad students (and academics) and their often large egos are good at. And, should you plan on becoming a professor later on, being able to work well with others – both as a member of the group and as a leader – is a very good skill to have.