The Unexpected Adventure of Hyderabad: Building Long-Distant Relationships that Will Last a Lifetime

Relationship. Connectedness. Relationship is commonly defined as the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected or the state of being connected. Connectedness is the state of being joined or linked; a feeling of belonging to or having an affinity with a person or group.

Recently, several First Rate colleagues and I traveled from our homes in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Afghanistan to Hyderabad, India. Although the main purpose of the trip was to share and exchange knowledge and ideas, the outcome we achieved was deepened relationships and a new sense of connectedness.

I had many hours on my return flights to reflect on the overall experience and what it meant to me. First Rate is a company that values relationships, and this trip reflected that commitment. On a personal level, there is nothing quite like navigating foreign airports and powering through numerous time zones to bond with your colleagues in a new way. The trip also affirmed for me that there is no substitute for face-to-face interactions. Sharing ideas, knowledge, meals, laughter, numerous “selfies,” and a little bit of sightseeing gave our group the time we needed to strengthen our relationships and connect in new ways.

For the Products team members traveling from the United States, it was the first time we would meet our team members from Afghanistan face to face. I will never forget the smiling faces greeting us that first day, followed by handshakes and hugs. The Products team members from Afghanistan continue to contribute to our success in big ways, and we were able to present them with Certificates of Achievement as a sign of appreciation. It may be selfish, but being able to present their certificates in person is a moment that I will always cherish.

At First Rate, we eat—A LOT. Another highlight moment for me was the group dinner. Team members from Hyderabad, Kabul, Arlington, and Philadelphia all gathered at a local restaurant to break bread together: six tables of colleagues and friends sharing a meal. Chatter and laughter from the First Rate section could be heard throughout the restaurant. Spending time with colleagues outside of the office provided me with an opportunity to connect in new ways.

Sprinkled throughout our days in training were moments to talk about our lives and families, creating moments of connectedness that I treasure.

On our last day in India, four of us woke early to visit the Birla Mandir Temple. The temple is built high above the city and is made of 2,000 tons of pure white marble. We stored our shoes and mobile phones and began our climb to the top, stopping along the way to visit the many different shrines. Upon reaching the top, the priests bestowed each of us with a blessing; we were also rewarded with panoramic views of Hyderabad. What an honor and blessing to accompany our colleague to the temple and to have her describe each shrine! The serenity of our surroundings offered an opportunity to connect with ourselves.

The afternoon was all about fun. We decided to seize the opportunity to check another item off our “bucket lists;” four of us squeezed our way into a tuc tuc to head to the shopping mall. I have never experienced anything quite like Hyderabad traffic. Putting our lives in the hands of the driver—while he talked on his cell phone—was harrowing. Lane markings there are merely a suggestion, and somehow five lanes of cars, tuc tucs, and motorcycles share a three-lane road and manage to get where they are going without incident. As if the adventure of the tuc tuc ride wasn’t enough, we managed to squeeze in a little shopping, and what happens at the shopping mall stays at the shopping mall. We laughed until our sides hurt.

We closed out our last day reflecting on our time together. Several female colleagues spent the evening camped out in one hotel room. The conversation wasn’t about work, but rather about pre-trip concerns and expectations and how those compared to our actual experiences. It takes a lot of planning and teamwork on the home front in support of trips like these. Each of us had experienced reservations about leaving children, spouses, aging parents, aunts, uncles, and pets, but there was a sense of pride in overcoming those concerns. We were thankful for this opportunity to connect with each other in a way that couldn’t happen stateside.

If you asked me to sum up my trip in a few words, it was all about relationships. These moments of sharing connected us as extended family, and I am forever grateful.

I couldn’t be prouder to be one small part of this bigger thing that we call First Rate Living.


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