One Year OutBrooks English ’16Commodities Trader at Gelber Group
Three months after he graduated from Vassar, Brooks English ’16 landed a job as a commodities trader. He describes the work as both demanding and rewarding, and he says the time he spent in Vassar’s classrooms and on its athletic fields prepared him well for the challenge.
English, who majored in psychology and was a co-captain of the baseball team for two years, works for Gelber Group, a proprietary trading firm based in Chicago. He trades principally in currencies but works with other commodities as well, and his day starts early. “I’m usually at my desk by 5:45am devouring any global, market-moving economic and geopolitical news that happened overnight,” he says. “From there, I try to piece together what is going on in the world that day, and come up with a plan of attack if I think a trade is justified.”
English says his job is all about making quick decisions, balancing risks with rewards. “After I have done all my preparation and I see opportunity, I put the risk on and find out if I’m right or wrong,” he says. “The thing I love most about being a trader is the freedom it gives you to come up with a thesis and to put yourself—and the firm’s capital—out there.”
“The biggest lesson I learned…was how to take complete and whole responsibility. Our coaches always stressed that everything stems from the top, and the leaders need to completely own whatever is happening and create a plan of attack.”
English says his experience on the baseball diamond has often helped him deal with the inevitable wrong choices he sometimes makes on the job. “After a string of losers, it takes a lot of mental toughness to stay in the game and use what you’ve learned from being wrong, figure out why you were wrong, and make adjustments,” he says. “At Vassar, if I was ever in a slump on the baseball field, I just had to trust in the process, stay disciplined, and trust that my preparation and hard work would pay off.”
English says he chose the field “because it is an extremely competitive, entrepreneurial endeavor that aligns well with my athletic background.” And he says his grounding in psychology often enables him to spot and navigate trends. “I entered the trading industry without much of an economic, math, or finance background,” he says, “but I’ve definitely taken concepts I learned in psychology and applied them to my job. “
Many of his professors at Vassar, including Associate Prof. of Psychology Allan Clifton, were adept at translating material taught in class and applying it to real-world situations. “Prof. Clifton was always supportive of me making leaps from the course material and connecting it to topics outside the curriculum,” he says.
While he comes from a Vassar family (his parents, Janet Albers English and Chris English are Class of ’82 and his dad also played baseball here) Brooks says he was considering other colleges until he visited the campus and met members of the baseball team. “I got along with the coaches and players on my overnight stay better than anywhere else I visited,” he says. “It just felt like home.”
One of his proudest moments was being part of the team in his freshman year that qualified for the Liberty League playoffs for the first time in Vassar history. His dad witnessed the game, English says, “and to see him in the stands shedding a tear after the last out was made that day was pretty special.”
Becoming a co-captain two years later was also a significant milestone in his life. “The biggest lesson I learned from this was how to take complete and whole responsibility,” he says. “Our coaches always stressed that everything stems from the top, and the leaders need to completely own whatever is happening and create a plan of attack. My firm is very team oriented as well, and I use these lessons every day, both in my personal and professional life.”