Sada Retreat

Being a post-COVID company and having worked across 9 time zones for more than two years, we knew most of our colleagues only as faces and voices from Zoom calls. 💻 Our incredible team is what fuels our vibrant culture, which holds up pretty amazingly in our virtual environment. Yet, we always knew that there is a certain magic we miss out on as a remote-first team and our license approval was the perfect occasion to get together all in one place.

So we decided to make the biggest investment in our culture yet and ventured on a four-day company-wide retreat in Dubai, which was close enough to home for our Pakistani team and easily accessible for all of our international colleagues 🇦🇪

The trip was a beautiful experience that allowed the humans behind those Zoom conferences to meaningfully connect, having worked through thick and thin to get this far on our journey. The time we spent with one another left us with a renewed sense of camaraderie.

Inevitably, the trip also added new dimensions to our company culture. Here are some lessons we learned during our time in Dubai:

Amusement parks (Embracing the roller coasters 🎢)

On our first bright sunny morning, Sadanauts explored IMG Worlds of Adventure, a theme park in the sandy corners of Dubai, and then Wild Wadi, one of the most thrilling water parks in the world 🌊

Interestingly, not all of us are avid thrill-seekers and yet our colleagues helped us take the plunge. We queued up for Haunted Hotels together, held each other’s hands, and powered through scare after scare. We hopped onto rollercoasters that within 90 seconds of twirls after twirls shook us to our bones. We faced crashing waves and vertical waterslides cheering each other on. We established leaving no doubt that we are courageous when we know we have each other’s backs 💪

  • Cultural takeaway: There is courage in numbers

Breakfast (Showing up always pays off)

When you’re staying at a hotel, there’s one unbreakable rule: DO NOT MISS the free breakfast buffet! Though Sadanauts compromised on sleep to hang out together till dawn, they never missed breakfast 🍳 Why? They prioritized. Sure, breakfast is generally important, but it was also when every employee filled the restaurant. People table hopped from their department colleagues to have tea with Finance or HR; it was an unmissable opportunity.

Hotel breakfast cultivated an unspoken routine for the trip. Each Sadanaut committed to participating in a chill, companywide breakfast. This consistency paralleled our culture: there are (sometimes difficult) things to accomplish daily, but Sadanauts always take ownership, show up, and make the best of the situation. We’ve seen them do this incredibly well virtually, so knowing they can sustain this in the real world makes us proud!

  • Cultural takeaway: Showing up isn’t always easy, but it definitely always pays off

The Museum of the Future

At SadaPay we take our collective future seriously, but the vision needs both imagination and ambition.

One fine afternoon, all 120+ Sadanauts, clad in Sada teal, made their way to Dubai’s latest attraction; the Museum of the Future. You know the one, the impossible-looking ring-like metallic building with gorgeous Arabic calligraphy windows all over its facade.

We made our way through the 6-story museum exploring this grand imagined vision of the world in 2071 when humanity has built ways to harness the reflective energy of sunlight falling on the moon.

Each floor of the museum explored different aspects of humanity’s future. We began with floor one which related to Sustainable Energy through outer space exploration 🔭 Floor two detailed how scientists of 2071 would go about preserving DNA records of 2,400 species of Flora, Fauna, Fungi, and Animalia in order to stop the extinction of endangered species. Floor three was a walkthrough of novel techniques that people in 2071 would use to cater to their mental health – an aspect of human life often ignored in today’s busy world.

Sadanauts walked awestricken and curious through these floors, imagining a more ambitious outlook for the future 🚀

  • Cultural takeaway: The future is whatever we make of it.

Cruise (It helps being on the same boat ⛴):

Our packed itinerary also included an evening cruise along the beautiful Dubai Marina. Standing at the scorching docks, we faced a problem: only the ground floors of all double-decker boats were air-conditioned. To ensure everyone’s comfort, we pitched an offer: you embrace the heat and all be together on one boat, or split into two boats to get lower-storey AC. We were overjoyed with how it all unfolded: everyone voted to stay on the same boat. A decision that resulted in a lot of singing and dancing also showed our teams didn’t care about the heat as much as they cared about unity.

Honestly, we apply the same mindset to work. Our company’s a vast collective, where no teammate is left behind. We strive to be in the same boat for every decision, big or small, and it helps us achieve great results. Decisions from talented, like-minded people make an enormous impact.

  • Cultural takeaway: Unity is strength. Unity drives results

Infinity Des Lumieres (Milestones aren’t ends. They’re motivators):

The most climactic part of this trip was a special event to commemorate our recently acquired license. As an outer-space-themed art installation projected all over the walls, the floors, and us (the Sadanauts 👩‍🚀), our CEO delivered a tear-jerking speech about our journey to becoming a licensed Institution. While the projections kept changing and novel snacks were being served, everyone’s attention was on each other. To the idea that this tiny company born in a borrowed law firm office now had the funding, legal approvals, and manpower to bring – and scale – its advanced (but simple!) financial services to Pakistan 🇵🇰

There were addresses by early-stage employees and an awards ceremony (inspired by The Office) where our company culture was duly celebrated. A resounding, universal acknowledgment of the responsibilities our license entails underscored every moment. We left the venue in awe of what had just unfolded but more in tune than ever with the opportunity of a lifetime that lied ahead of us – to make money so simple, any other way actually becomes unthinkable.

  • Cultural takeaway: Celebrating one another’s contributions is necessary, but so is a constant reflection

We took four days to bask in this important milestone in the SadaPay journey. But all the while, we were thinking about the fantastical nature of what’s next for us: working on bettering ourselves, and bringing you the future of money. Our CEO mentioned in his speech that this license isn’t an end in itself. It’s a beginning. We left Dubai knowing that when we’d touch down in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Australia, Italy, Germany, the USA – wherever – the forthcoming Monday would be day zero at work.