Thursday, December 24, 2020

Like thousands of other business leaders across Canada, Alex Hoff (BMath ’04) reckoned with the harsh financial reality of a global pandemic at the beginning of 2020. “As a leadership team, we had to scale back and make tough hiring decisions once we realized that we couldn’t grow as quickly as anticipated,” he shared.  

Auvik Networks, Inc., which offers cloud-based network management software to run IT networks around the world, was never geared toward serving a remote workforce. Hoff, the co-founder and chief product officer at Auvik, spent the year with his team accelerating new product ideas to reflect a new environment. Despite planning for the worst, Auvik achieved substantial, unexpected growth by the end of 2020. “The pandemic ended up giving us an interesting opportunity to step back and look at how we wanted our products to evolve over the next several years,” said Hoff. “It’s been an invigorating process.”

Hoff’s ability to adapt, reflects a distinct pragmatism that he honed in his years at the Faculty of Mathematics. He was a self-described “nerd with a natural affinity for technology,” in his formative years, but he was never a top student. He enrolled in the Computer Science program at the Faculty of Mathematics hoping that the practical experience he would gain through the co-op program would help clear a path to a successful career.

His instincts were spot on. While earning his degree, Hoff completed co-op terms at KPMG, Nokia, Alcatel and Sandvine, the telecommunications company where he would go on to work for eight years. “I can’t stress how much my co-op program has helped my career through providing hands-on experience and introducing me to people who have supported me along the journey,” he expressed. “The co-op program sets Waterloo apart.”

After graduating from Waterloo, Hoff found purely tech-based roles too insular. On the other hand, he didn’t feel drawn to managing people. He eventually hit his stride on the product side of the business. “I realized that I wanted most to create and drive products forward,” he remembered. By 2011, he was itching to build something of his own. He and a former colleague from Sandvine, Marc Morin (BaSC’87), spent nearly a year evaluating a handful of business ideas before launching Auvik. Since then, Auvik has grown in leaps and bounds.

The best advice Hoff can give to upcoming graduates, especially those who aspire to build their own business one day, is to identify their key strengths before making the leap. “Figure out what you’re best at doing,” he said. “Are you the technical guru? The people person? I’m not those things. I’m the strategy guy. I spend my time figuring out how to reach new markets, solve problems, and create a direction for the next five years.” Above all, urges Hoff, “be pragmatic and recognize that you need time and experience before starting something new. That is a lesson I learned at Waterloo and carry with me to this day."

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