David A. Grogan: From Shipyard to Shoots

David A. Grogan, 51 sipped his tea and adjusted his blue-framed glasses as he reminisced about his life back in the day. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he did know there was something better out there for him when he worked at the shipyard at age 17. “I remember someone saying to me that this is a job for life, you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life. And I remember thinking like do I want to do this forever? I’m only 17. There has to be more out there for me,” said Grogan.

Grogan attended school up until the age of 16 in Plymouth, England, and then went right to the shipyard to start working. He was trained to be a boilermaker and worked there for a few years before he realized he wanted to do more with his life. Unsure of what exactly his future had in store for him, he traveled the world to places like Spain, Scotland, Germany, and the United States to see what was out there. While traveling he worked an array of odd jobs to see what he was interested in. He went from boilermaker, to bartender, to waiter, to bike messenger, to radio host. But with no college degree under his belt he finally found his niche here in the United States and became a professional photographer for CNBC Television. “Growing up I never thought I would ever be doing anything like photography, especially something that has to do with television,” said Grogan.

Kids growing up in Plymouth either furthered their education at the age of 16 or went right to work to the shipyard. For Grogan school was really never an option. “I was advised to leave after fifth form (senior year) because they basically told me I was wasting my time. So I left at 16 and went right to the shipyard and took the shipyard exam,” said Grogan.

After working there for few years as boilermaker Grogan was looking for every opportunity to get out. So when the shipyard started looking for redundancies or for people to leave due to cut backs, Grogan took the opportunity right away. “At the time I think was 23 and I took the deal because I didn’t want to be there forever anyway. My parents were so mad at me and thought I would never get a good job again,” said Grogan as he ran his fingers through his grey and white hair.

Not knowing what to do next at such a young age Grogan set out and decided to travel to Spain to see what he could get his hands on out there. “I met and hit it off with a guy on the bus to the terminal in Spain, and he asked me to come with him to meet some other guys and they said I could sleep on their couch. So I ended up bartending and I staying for a whole season,” said Grogan.

“Those were some of the best and fun times of my life, we were all really good mates then,” said Grogan with a wide smile on his face revealing his slightly crooked bottom teeth. After working at The World Famous Drift Inn in Spain, Grogan and the friends he had made decided to travel to the United States, a country he had never been to. “We lived in one hotel room in San Diego with a cot and tried to live as cheap as possible with food because we wanted to save as much money as we could for beer,” said Grogan with a laugh.

Once him and his friends realized they were running out of money they all got jobs as bike messengers delivering things like packages and papers before they decided to travel back to England together. Grogan eventually went home to see his family after several months, but soon realized that he didn’t want to be back home again.

“My sister asked me to come stay with her in London since she had tickets to a concert. So I went and that’s where I met my wife Eileen,” said Grogan

“The concert was for the freeing of Nelson Mandela, in 1990. Musicians played for him and it was an amazing experience and it was fate that we were there at the same time,” said Grogan in regards to meeting his wife.

After dating for about a year and half Grogan and Eileen got married at The Gore Hotel in London, England. They had small ceremony with few family and friends. Grogan wore a kilt that represented his heritage. And a few weeks after their wedding they decided to move back to the United States together.

“I just knew that there were more opportunities in America than there were in England for me. The little taste I had when I visited made me like it. But I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet,” said Grogan.

He worked as a waiter for a while to make money for him and his wife before he eventually decided he wanted to try his hand at radio. He got a non-paying gig at Farleigh Dickinson University hosting a radio show. “I talked and played jazz music, it was called the Musicquarium,” said Grogan.

“I taught myself editing which back then was reel to reel. I eventually became the music director and I did that for a while. The radio was a way to learn a new trade and I really enjoyed it,” he said as he hit the table like a drum creating a beat as he hummed along.

Grogan knew that he needed to find a better job that actually paid him. “I knew at the time that Fox news had started up and they were taking people from CNBC which is where Eileen worked at the time and she told me that they were looking to hire people so I just kind of went for it,” said Grogan.

With only boilermaker work and radio hosting under his belt with a few other odd jobs, Grogan had no idea what he was going to be able to do at CNBC. “This woman showed me an audio board and made me watch a show and then asked me if I could work the audio board and I said yea sure I can do that and then they hired me in 1998 as a free lancer,” said Grogan with a chuckle as he remembered this crazy experience.

About a year later he got hired full time as an audio guy who did in studio work as well as work out in the field. He then got put on the documentary crew doing audio and traveled all over the world with the crew for about five years. While traveling Grogan taught himself other skills of the trade including photography, “I always liked photography and found it interesting,” said Grogan.

With teaching himself everything he knew he took it upon himself to apply for an opening for photographer about three and a half years ago. “I applied and I got the job as a staff photographer. I now shoot documentaries, live shows, live shots, primetime pieces, and a show called Secret Lives of the Super Rich,” he said with a sense of accomplishment in his voice.

“Dave Grogan is one of the most talented, creative and driven photographers I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” said Mario Schettino, Grogan’s boss and Director of Technical Operations at CNBC.

“A lot of other guys applied with college degrees and photography backgrounds but none of them had the natural skill that he had,” said Schettino. “And now he is currently the most requested photographer at CNBC.”

Grogan has come a long way since boilermaker in the shipyard and he finally knows what he should be doing. “I am in a really good place now and right where I should be. It gives me the creative outlet that I always needed,” said Grogan.

His journey to finding his career was a long one and unlike anyone else’s, he takes pride in knowing that he worked his way to where he is now. “When interns ask me how I got into this business or got to where I am I just laugh and say it’s a long story,” said Grogan with a wide smile and a chuckle.


Montclair State | New Jersey

Tori Schettino

I am a Communication and Media Arts major with a minor in Journalism.