Interview with an International Alumnus

Peter and family

By Dana Ciak, Alumni Relations

International alumnus, singer-songwriter, and author of Asian Banking CEOs and Banks at Risk, Peter Hoflich (BA ’94) has lived and worked in Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore. Now working as a writer and communicator in Singapore, Peter answers some questions for Alumni Relations about what he is up to these days.

Can you speak about your journey from Waterloo to Asia, and why you decided to leave Waterloo after graduation?

In the early 1990s I did a co-op term in Taiwan and started studying Chinese in a local language centre. After graduation I returned for another two years and met the woman I later married, who is from Japan. Our son Zen was born when we lived in Japan in 2001, which is where I picked up the guitar, learned a bit of Japanese, and expanded my portfolio as a writer. We moved to Singapore in 2003, where I fulfilled my dream of being a full-time author, working for a regional trade publication called The Asian Banker. Eight years later I got a job as Communications Manager for RBC Wealth Management here; somehow my trip overseas led me right back to a great Canadian company – I went full circle! My current role managing media relations and communications at BMI Research is even more interesting, as it combines elements of my last two roles — it’s very exciting.

Did you always know that you would one day become a writer?

Probably from age 10 or so, but things picked up a lot at UWaterloo when I spent a year writing for Imprint, because that was the first time I was around fellow writers.

In Taiwan I wrote a lot of short fiction, and when I was in Japan I worked on novels and self-published a zine. In Singapore I started my blog, and when writing was my full-time job I got an offer to write two non-fiction books for Wiley & Sons; this is also when I joined a band and started writing music. Writing has become a compulsion for me.

Did anything or anyone during your time at UWaterloo influence you in any way to get you to where you are today?

Eric McCormack was a great influence on me. He is such a fantastic novelist, and also a great lecturer. As a student of English literature at UWaterloo, I was exposed to so many interesting authors and poets that I never would have come across otherwise.

You have published books, Asia’s Banking CEOs and Banks at Risk, what does it mean to you to have your books published?

It’s never as good as the first time, and I still remember how great Fridays at UWaterloo were because Imprint would come out and I’d see my pieces for the week, try to figure out if they’d come out all right, and see what others had written; it was a great feeling.

You are a music writer and guitarist in your spare time, tell us more about this.

I’ve been part of the music scene in Singapore for quite some time in a band now that performs hard rock covers from the 1970s.

I also perform on my own at open mic sessions around town – both cover tunes and my originals – and just love it.

What advice do you have for people thinking about moving abroad to work or study?

It’s so important to see how people in other parts of the world live. No matter where you’re from, it’s too easy to be insular, fall into a local routine and never push the boundaries. My parents were immigrants from Germany - they came to Canada in the 1950s and worked hard to build new lives for themselves. I have also turned up on the shores of a new land with no network of contacts, not able to speak the language, with hardly any support. It’s a challenge… it’s a risk… but it’s not impossible. And it can be very rewarding!

Peter and FeridunHow do you stay connected to the University of Waterloo while living so far away from campus?

Despite being on the other side of the world, staying in touch with UWaterloo is not hard at all. There are the e-newsletters from both the school and my department, and of course also the amazing alumni magazine that I always look forward to getting. Waterloo has a great local alumni chapter, headed by the energetic Jonathan Kwan, that’s always planning networking events for both local and Canadian alumni, as well as co-op students; we also enjoy regular visits from key UWaterloo figures, such as President Feridun Hamdullahpur, who was here last November for the alumni Asia event (picture of Feridun and I at the event on the right).

Interestingly, it also turns out that most of the Canadians in my firm are also UWaterloo grads. We really are everywhere!