The journey through my LBS Sloan MSc; application and beyond..

Thanks for dropping by

This blog is intended to detail events, lessons learned and general musings during my journey through the application process of joining business school.

I hope that this will help future prospective students and enlighten a few casual readers.

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.”

[Izaak Walton]

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Preparation for Programme Initiation..

This is the first post in a new category that will concentrate upon the activities and actions that I plan to complete leading up to the start of the LBS Sloan MSc in January 2019.

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With the summer now well and truly gone, I am looking at approximately three months until I start my full time studies. Something that has been on the horizon for seemingly so long, is now approaching very quickly. So what do I intend to do in the next three months to best prepare myself?… Below is a brief summary.

Sloan programme ‘next steps’

LBS has laid out several activities to be completed prior to the start of the course, these vary from 360 degree peer assessments to completion of academic study material to ensure all students are up to speed with basic financial accounting  methodology etc. prior to programme start. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t looked at this in great detail and thus I will cover in a seperate blog entry later.

 

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Processing my company’s annual accounts

To help me get back into the groove of how a companey balance sheet functions, I have taken the responsibility of book keeping from my accountant for the financial year of 2018. This has proven quite a fruitful (if a little time consuming) exercise.

 

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Extra curricular academic study

I will be making use of online learning organisations such as Coursera.org, Getsmarter.com and Udemy.com to improve my knowledge in areas that I feel I could be stronger, or areas where I have a particular interest in working post programme completion. Some of these I have discovered myself, and others have been recommended to me by others who have taken a similar journey to me. Once I have completed each of these courses I will give a brief summary of their content, while offering feedback on how I found each of them.

The courses that I intend to complete (or I have already completed) are thus:

Found on Coursera.org:

  • Managing the Company of the Future. Created by LBS.
  • The Maneger’s Toolkit. Created by Birbeck University of London.
  • Global Energy and Climate Policy. Created by SOAS Universtity of London.
  • Our Energy Future. Create by the University of Califirnia San Diego.

Found on Getsmarter.com:

  • MBA Essentials: Created by LSE.

Found on Udemy.com:

  • An enture MBA in 1 Course: Created by Chris Haroun.

 

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Reading literature

I plan to utilise my long commute time (circa 2.5 hours of travelling per day) by reading several books that have have been recommened to me or I have piqued my interest. Once again I intend to give a summary and feedback of these books once I have read them:

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Book 1: The Hard Thing about Hard Things. By Ben Horowitz. This book has been recommended to me by a close friend who is now a VP for finance in a succesful startup company within the Silicon Valley. He has used this book as one of his primary reference guides to help him in his current role. This book is writtened by a seasoned start up guru who has many battle scars from the dot.com bubble aftermath at the turn of the century.

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Book 2: High Output Management. By Andrew Grove. This book was also recommended to my by my close friend as per Book 1 above. This book I am quite excited to read as it has quite a reputation of being a very enjoyable and informative read.

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Book 3: Fast / Forward: Make Your Company Fit for the Future. This book was given to me after attending a open house lecture at LBS earlier in the year. Both the lecture and the book were created by LBS’ deputy Dean; Julian Birkinshaw. The lecture was very fresh and informative, and I am looking forward to finding out what he has to say in this book.

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Book 4: Start With Why. By Simon Sinek. This book is a bit of a widlcard in that I have selected it based on reading many online reviews rather than it be recommened to me by someone I know directly.

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Holiday!

There is an old English proverb that goes something like: ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.

By the time I reach the first week of December, I will have worked right through the calender year of 2018 without a single week of holiday. I have stolen the odd day here and there, but in order to save enough money to enable completion of my fultime studies in 2019 I have been unable to taske any time off from work. This has certainly left me quite emotionally drained at times, and has enforced me to be self aware enough to not behave irrationally when faced with problems in the work place. These same problems when faced by a well rested and non-fatigued Nick Rubick would probably be minor hurdles both physically and emotionally, have sometimes brought about quite an amplified emotional response from me, quite contrary to how I like to project myself.

I have thus been extra frugal this year to afford to send myself away on holiday for a few weeks before the start of my course. I hope that this will help refresh me and put me in top form ahead of my programme start in January. This gives me something to look forward to as a reward for my hard work leading upto this point in time. However it does give me even leass time to complete all of the activities described above…

Wish Me Luck!

500 words to save the world..

This post shows my response to one of the LBS Sloan MSc scholarship application essays that I completed. Plus some additional thoughts on the subject topic. The title of the essay given was:

Describe an innovative solution to a worldwide issue of your choice (Max 500 Words).

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My response to this was:

A pressing issue facing the world today is; how does humankind supply power to its planet without making it uninhabitable? Solving this problem is gaining momentum, as demonstrated by the international collaboration that enabled the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

This is reducing the use of fossil-fuel generated power; thus supply of ‘traditional’ electricity sources is falling, while total electricity demand increases due to a reduction in transportation’s dependency on oil.

As a result, global solar energy supply is predicted to double every 18 months, while in the U.K (representative of the global average) wind power increased by 45% from 2016 to 2017.

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Despite these changes, forecasts beyond 2030 show significant power supply deficits without the use of fossil fuels, and this is before considering that transportation embracing electrical propulsion could eventually double demand.

The erratic nature of renewable energy supply is an unquestionable problem. To mitigate supply shortfalls using only ‘clean’ sources would necessitate system capacities to be far in excess of demand. An alternative solution is to have traditional energy supplies used as back up, such as the U.K’s capacity market, but this is inefficient and contravenes climate change policy.

Research has shown that energy systems can be significantly optimised by both reducing supply fluctuations and introducing electricity storage into the distribution network.

To visualise how a system can be optimised, consider energy as inventory. Distribution systems such as those within the supermarket industry have managed to minimise inventory through intelligent location of intermediate storage facilities, together with increasing sources of supply.

Energy supply variations can be reduced by blending sources (solar and wind often have negative correlation) and by varying sources’ geographic locations. In addition, energy storage offers great potential. Storage technologies are in their infancy, as of June 2017 only 1% of U.K electricity demand was met by storage, but predictions estimate this may increase to 20% by 2022.

What is most urgently required now is a universal understanding of the most efficient energy supply system. Currently developments are often being progressed independently of one another, based on what individuals think will offer the industry the most benefit (and thus return on investment).

The World Energy Council predicts that energy system optimisation will enter mainstream thinking within five years. This approach is illogical; successful projects require completion of system design prior to implementation. Why would implementation of unprecedented energy system changes be any different?

This generates two difficult questions: What is the most efficient supply system? How can collaboration be co-ordinated to achieve this model? Difficult yes, but not impossible, and obtaining the answers could be key to turning a clean energy deficit into an exportable surplus.

An innovative way to develop answers could be through a high-profile competition similar to Google’s Lunar X prize. Google’s competition “sparked the conversation and changed expectations”, by encouraging exploration of the boundaries of knowledge, and sharing discoveries.

If incentives and prestige can help with cheaper space travel, couldn’t a similar approach work for energy system optimisation, and therefore climate change?

[Word count: 500]

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Now first of all let me start by saying that I didn’t win an award for this particular essay submission, however it was the one essay that I found the most thought provoking and engaging.

My professional career to date has not given me any exposure to the energy industry, and thus quite a significant amount of research was needed. This in turn has resulted in  this essay being quite an educational piece for me, and has got me to thinking about what the possible answers to the two ‘difficult questions’ could be.

The first question: What is the most efficient energy supply system?

Of course with limited technical knowledge it is not possible for me to answer this with great authority, but I can use what experience I have garnered from other industries to presuppose what might be effective.

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I did briefly brush over this in my essay when referencing supermarkets distribution systems, which in turn are often used as a simplified analogy to describe a Kan Ban / Just In Time or Lean production system.

A supermarket maximises the quantity of products it is able to supply to its customers, while at the same time minimising the inventory of said products that it holds. It has a small amount of storage within each store, on the shelves. These shelves are replenished from stock that is held in larger quantities at the rear of the store, which are in turn replenished from a local distribution warehouse. Each one of these storage areas will be designed so that it can hold the minimum amount of buffer stock to ensure that there is a constant supply to meet consumer demand.

In addition, each supplier will likely also have a buffer stock quantity ‘on the shelf’ at either the production source or at a distribution centre, which will enable them to react to fluctuations in demand and supply supermarkets immediately as required. The supplier will produce to replenish this buffer stock, allowing a stable production output to meet peaks and troughs in demand.

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This is a very simplified view, but also consider that a supermarket distribution system must supply thousands of varying products to thousands of customers with various consumer preferences. With an energy distribution system, every consumer has exactly the same requirements, albeit in different volumes. Surely optimising an energy distribution system must be easy compared to a supermarket equivalent? This leads onto difficult question number 2..

The second question: How can collaboration be co-ordinated to achieve this model?

A significant difference between a supermarket chain’s distribution system, and a national energy supply distribution system, is that the supermarket chain is likely to have one organisation leading and co-ordinating operations. Whereas an energy distribution system will consist of several large energy producers, separate organisations responsible for the energy distribution network, and often separate organisations responsible for supplying said energy to the end user. Each of these ‘players’ within the market will be competing against one another to get a larger foothold in the market. Thus collaboration and joint strategy will not be a natural step.

A similar example is the pharmaceutical industry, where traditionally firms have been very secretive of their development activities, which often means duplication of the same research, and thus inefficiencies across the sector as a whole. Squeezes on firms return on investment margins in recent years has resulted in them starting to collaborate on research activities and data. This is certainly an interesting prospect, and if successful could be emanated by many other industries, not least energy supply.

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A more mature model that could perhaps be successful has been used for several decades within an industry that is very close to my heart; The Space Industry. Within this industry, most developed nations have a central body (US: NASA, Japan: JAXA, Europe: ESA) that analyses the most effective areas for investment, and develops a coordinated strategy for the whole industry based upon the results of this analysis. It then utilises third party organisations to supply much of the ingredients needed to implement this strategy – be it R&D into new materials and technologies, supply of spacecraft equipment, or bespoke software for specific applications.

This model is perhaps a happy compromise between  an out-and-out capitalist model whereby market forces dictate development (meaning individual firms are primarily reactionary and fighting against one another), and a central government owned model which as history has shown, tends to restrict enterprise and dynamism. Reaching a happy balance between both models above is crucial to the success of a sector that relies upon several brilliant individual firms working together for the greater good of the wider industry. The space industry today is thriving and growing across the world perhaps at a faster rate than it ever has. Could the energy supply industry benefit from utilising a similar model? I certainly think so.

Who am I?.. My scholarship application video entry

A key ingredient to one of the several LBS Sloan scholarship awards was a five minute video titled ‘Who am I’? I would certainly not put TV presentation as one of my strengths, and thus the thought of me trying to hold an audience’s attention while regurgitating my life story really didn’t appeal to me (and neither would it you!). Luckily, I was hit by inspiration, and I did what all great leaders do; I delegated the task!

I hope you enjoy watching as much as I did, and big thanks to all of you who caved in to my incessant requests and sent me your video clips. Without you I would literally, in this instance, be nothing.

For those of you who have not seen enough from the above video, see below also for a few of my favourite entries unedited, together with one or two that I just couldn’t quite squeeze into the five minute time limit.

 

Scholarship awarded!! The final piece in the application jigsaw..

I am very pleased to say that at the end of August, LBS advised that I have been awarded a scholarship, this means that LBS will contribute towards my fees for their Sloan MSc..

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It could go without saying that I am extremely pleased to have been granted a scholarship, however I will take some time to articulate some of the reasons of why I am so happy, together with any lessons that I feel I may have learned during this part of the application process that I can pass onto future candidates.

  • Benefit #1: Financial. This is perhaps the most obvious benefit, although on reflection it is also probably the least important for me overall. I will be seeking to fund a part of my fees through a lending agent (I will cover this with a future blog), and thus the fees contributed kindly by LBS’ donors will have a direct impact on the sum that I will now have to borrow. With that said however, when considering the remainder of the course fees plus loss of earnings during programme participation, this sum is not hugely significant.
  • Benefit #2: Recognition from LBS. I will be the first to admit that there is an element of ego stroking here, but am very, very happy that hat LBS have picked me out for one of their prestigious awards. Away from the ego stroking, this is also a huge vote of confidence that they have given me in my approach to my application, especially after requesting an additional essay from me to help them decide if I was a suitable candidate for the programme. I will cover this in a little more detail below, where I will describe my take-homes from the scholarship application experience.
  • Benefit #3: Future prestige and opportunities. For me this has the potential to be the most rewarding benefit. As part of the scholarship award I will be expected to take part in open events and recruitment activities, as well as potentially being asked to represent the school in media publications and promotions. These activities can only improve my networking opportunities  both internally and externally to LBS, as well as push me outside of my comfort zone a little and thus allow for personal development. What more could a budding Sloan candidate ask for ahead of the start to the programme?

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My thoughts on LBS, scholarship selection process

Now this section must come with a huge caveat; I don’t speak on behalf of LBS, and of course they have not spoken with me directly regarding any specific selection criteria. My thoughts below are my gut feel and reflect the approach have taken in order to maximise my chances of being granted a scholarship.

  • Item #1: ‘Awarded on merit’. For me, when LBS state a scholarship ‘will be awarded on merit’ , I read the word ‘merit’ as: ‘The endeavour taken to become an exceptional candidate’. This puts the onus on the effort expended by a candidate to make a positive difference, rather than just latent ability.
  • Item #2: Potential to contribute.  In my scholarship award letter, LBS state: “We also expect that you will contribute a great deal to the wider London Business School community, both during your time here, and as an alumnus/a.”  So throughout the selection process it is probable that LBS are looking for examples of where you may have been successful  at promoting or representing organisations. However they will also likely be looking at your behaviour during your application process; have you shown an interest in the extra curricular events at LBS? Have you got to know and develop relationships with alumni or faculty ahead of your programme start? As well as perhaps promoting LBS within your current network.
  • Item #3: Previous track record. This is where LBS will consider your previous academic and professional achievements, and extrapolate this into how they feel you will perform during the programme, including any entrance exam results (GMAT / EA etc). This may put some candidates seemingly at an advantage to others, but here the onus is really on the candidate to sell their strengths to the school, and how these strengths will be leveraged to maximise their effectiveness. It is also worth noting that one of a person’s key strengths could be awareness of their weaknesses and having a strategy on how to improve  on these.
  • Item #4: Application essays. These really are the medium whereby a candidate sells themselves to the school. I am fairly sure that LBS will consider your entire application plus all of the essays written for your scholarship applications as a whole, when considering you for awards. With this in mind, I would encourage all candidates seeking to earn a scholarship to apply for every available award, not just those wit which that they feel they have higher chance of success. This will once again show your endeavour, while also giving you a chance to build up a more diverse and detailed picture of yourself.
  • Item #5: Need for financial assistance. Once again I am not speaking on behalf of LBS here so this may now be wide of the mark, but up  to and including the 2018 intake there was at least one scholarship award granted with a consideration being a candidate’s financial position. Considering the cost of this programme and the abundance of high achievers that LBS will have applying to join, it is reassuring to think that this factor is also likely to be a consideration for them when selecting people for financial aid.

I hope that any future LBS Sloan candidates that happen upon this post find it useful. That said it is likely that most if not all of the principles could be applied to any scholarship application onto any programme around the globe. I would be very interested to know what thoughts you, the reader, have on this subject.

The return of the blog..

With British Summer Time (and what a summer it has been) starting to fade, it’s time for me to start my LBS Sloan MSc preparation in earnest..

Autumn

I must confess that my blog update hiatus has been rather longer than I expected. But as a very pleasant summer draws to a close, my preparation for January 2019 now starts to increase in intensity. I have several plans and intentions for the next few months, and it is these that I will be talking about most over the coming weeks, however I would first like to take a little time to reflect on the summer that has been…

..It wouldn’t be British if I didn’t start with a mention of the weather. After what can only be described as a rather testing winter and early spring, with snow falling as late as April, finally the U.K was treated to sunshine. Once it arrived, it really made up for lost time, with almost uninterrupted hot sunny days from May through to August. In fact it was so hot and dry that by Mid-July many grass lawns  had become scorched and yellow; something I can not remember happening previously in the 39 years I have been on this planet.

Aside from the weather, there are several other items for which I am thankful.

From a professional standpoint, the project that I have been assisting my main client with for the last three years is finally starting to give reason for optimism. Each day still brings its problems, but there is a now a tangible traction and momentum gained, most days end with the team feeling like we are further forward than we were at the start of the day (rather than further behind!), and after pushing that big stone boulder up the hill for so long, it is finally starting to feel like we are at last starting to roll it down the hill on the other side.

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Of course, it helps that I am now counting down the weeks before I leave, but by the time that day comes I think the project and the team will be perfectly functional without me. Over the past few months we have recruited fresh blood well, and this will be well placed to fill any void that I will leave behind. This in turn means that it will not be long before we are finally delivering the first components to our customer for fitment onto their aeroplane.

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As far as outdoor adventuring goes; I once again have much reason to be happy. I have been lucky enough to get out of town and experience some pretty special rock climbing on no less than three occasions. Further to this, I have now introduced outdoor (real) climbing to several friends, many of which now share my climbing bug. This bodes well for the future, and I hope we have many more adventures ahead of us.

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In addition to the outdoor climbing, I have managed to visit several local climbing gyms fairly often for quite a prolonged period of time, while complimenting this with regular yoga classes. The end result is that my body is starting to become more flexible that it has been for many years, and my climbing ability is at a higher level than it has ever been. I now hope that I can keep up this momentum, and further improve my climbing and flexibility.

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Last but not least, I was informed on 31st August that have been granted a scholarship by LBS. I will cover this in more detail in my next post…

LBS Sloan Invitation now received, I’m in!!

It has taken a fair bit of time, and research, and effort, but I am very pleased to announce that my application onto the LBS Sloan MSc has been successful. I’ve been invited to join the class of 2019. 

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I am extremely happy as you can imagine, not least because it means I can continue on my blog journey with you lovely readers. As is often the way in life, my admission onto the course was not straight forward; I was asked to write one additional written passage which was the deciding factor in LBS’ decision to accept me onto the course.

I firmly believe the decision would not have been a positive one unless I had put in the extra time to learn about the school, and the course, to perfect my written application, to prepare what I wanted to say and how to sell myself at the interview, and to spend time adding to my skill set with online learning and research. This however makes the result all the more sweet. You don’t want to be given something that you haven’t worked for now do you?

The close call also reaffirms just how diligent the admissions staff are and how selective they can be. This should mean that my fellow students starting 2019 will have also passed through a similarly vigilant selection process. It also goes someway to show that through hard work and application, and a little bit of luck, you can achieve things beyond your wildest dreams (OK, OK, I know I haven’t actually started the course yet – but it’s a start!).

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So the next step for me is to go all in on the scholarship applications offered with the programme. I will post up anything interesting once I have applied. The first deadline is 30th May, so not long at all, followed by several towards end of July. Competition for these places will be even more fierce than for a place on the course, but I will apply myself in the best way I can, and, who knows?…

Thanks for reading my journey so far, I look forward to sharing my further adventures with you as they unfold in front of me. In the mean time, I will leave you with a short video clip that best summarises my feelings when I received my acceptance notification….

 

 

 

Intermission #2: A trip to Goodwood Motor Circuit

Last weekend I joined hundreds of other Mazda MX5 owners, and as is traditional in Britain; braved the less than charming spring time weather on a journey down to the South Coast.

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It was the first proper run out that I have given my recently owned Mk1 MX-5 R-Ltd after several months of refurbishments. The event, run by the MX-5 owners club, was a real treat despite the rather harsh weather.

As an aside, how within 7 days we can go from the hottest London Marathon on record to temperatures that seemed so cold that hats, gloves and scarves would not have been frowned upon is beyond me.

I set off fairly early with a friend, taking the various A and B roads recommended by the above MX-5 owners club. The route down really was a joy, lots of twisty roads of various sizes taking us through many classic English country side scenes. My passenger and companion for the day hails from the mean streets of Rio de Janeiro, and I’m fairly confident that the beautiful sites we enjoyed more than outweighed the threat of imminent rain (or snow!?) throughout the day. He was particularly taken by the beauty of Petworth; just north of Chichester. Regrettably I don’t have any pictures of the journey as I was having too much fun driving.

If you ever fancy travelling to the South Coast from London and don’t like the idea of taking the motorways, you could do a lot worse than follow the directions given by the MX-5 Owners Club to Chichester: Routes to Goodwood. I can only imagine that the other routes proposed on the same web-page are equally as enjoyable.

I won’t go into too much detail regarding my car as I will likely cover it with another post when the project is fully completed, but If you haven’t picked up already, I really enjoyed her ride – easily the most fun car I have driven to date, which of course I am very happy about!

I’ll now let the pictures taken by myself and my companion during the day do the talking.

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Above: My beloved R-Ltd parked up on circuit ready for the parade lap. We were one of the last cars to arrive despite the early start, after stopping off for the mandatory several coffees and a full English breakfast on route.

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Above: My friend going through the hysterical stage of hypothermia as we cruise on foot past the hundreds of MX-5s brought to the event.

Below: A few of my favourite MK1s on show on the day. My next modification to my car will likely be the front end / registration plate position. So seeing so many examples was a great help.

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Above: A not too shabby S-Ltd makes the starting grid.

Below. An RS-Ltd attracts plenty of attention as you would expect.

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Above: Nothing screams engine upgrade quite like a V6 Jaguar lump!

Below: Even rare collector’s cars need new tires you know…

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Below: A few of my favourite non Mk1 examples on show.

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Above: Prize awarded for the bravest traveler of the day; with extremely heavy rain forecast for the drive home.

Below: One last photo of myself posing on the start finish straight ahead of the parade lap. Followed by a few taken during the procession.

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Thanks for organising MX5OC! I hope you all got home safely.

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