June 25, 2009 at 10:19 pm #74768
EVER APPLIED FOR A PMF OR FEDERAL STUDENT INTERNSHIP?
If so, we would love to hear about suggestions you have to improve things (post a comment below).
The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs is working with key officials at OPM and other Federal agencies to rethink and revamp the Presidential Management Fellowship, Federal Career Internship Program and other Federal internships too.
We are seeking your input and thoughts and it could be as simple as a one sentence description to something longer. Just comment below.
Your suggestion can focus on any aspect of these internships and will remain confidential when passed forward. We are moving on a fast-track pace so recommendations welcome up thru July 4th.
Thanks for your input! Scott Talan and the NASPAA team
June 25, 2009 at 10:36 pm #74820
I posted this for Scott but thought I’d add my own thoughts since I’ve applied for and received government internships.
1 – Lots of wasted talent. I think I heard 1/3 of people that get the PMF don’t ever find placement at an agency. That’s a travesty and should be fixed. There needs to be a better way of linking internship and scholarships to actual jobs. The federal fellowship I received in graduate school has had a bad record of placing people in government. Not because of people not wanting to but they just didn’t have the mechanism (the tip was go to usajobs.gov)
2-Most of the programs are for graduate schools. There should also be programs for undergraduates. FCIP and PMF mostly focus on undergrads.
3-Use this as a resource. Government doesn’t do a good job keeping track of its graduates from these pipelines. Do you think GE tracks its top people from internships and makes sure they stay with company? You bet. Government should keep a tab on such top talent and use them for special projects.
June 26, 2009 at 12:02 am #74818
Alicia Jane SwensonParticipant
I am a former PMF. I think the actual process was fine – it was time consuming, but so is looking for most jobs. Some thoughts about internship programs in government:
– Please do something with the talent once you’ve hired them! I believe most people in my generation are excited to work and like challenges – being placed in offices with people who talk about retirement and work hard about 10 out of 40 hours (there ARE exceptions, I know), just drags people down. If you hire someone, make sure you have work for them. Make sure it at least somewhat fits their interests and skill sets. Talk to them – let them know what you need done, but also let them know what opportunities there are.
– Another personal thought of mine – don’t limit everyone to DC. I know that is where much of the action takes place, but there are plenty of people across the rest of the country who would be happy to work for government in other areas. In this era of technological advances, a lot of work should be able to be done anywhere.
– There was great training for PMFs initially, but once the first year was up it was very easy to fall through the cracks. Management doesn’t all see the need to continue training after requirements are met, just kind of a letdown after the first year. I’d recommend sustained training.
– Have someone outside of the agency follow up. If your are putting your money into these programs, make sure people are staying! Once you are in the program, it’s hard to find resources sometimes. We had an agency coordinator, but once I graduated from PMF there wasn’t anyone to go to really.
– The 2 years as a PMF were good – I could ask to try things and was generally listened to. After converting I felt stuck in a cube and the same job for life. It could just be me. My biggest suggestion is to continue keeping tabs on the fellows/interns once they are hired, and even after they’ve finished their time. Maybe assign someone to a small group (like 10) so someone can see you through – like a college advisor perhaps. Don’t let them slip through the cracks!
June 26, 2009 at 11:48 am #74816
I am a current PMF and I think that this program would be better if we were not assigned a “home” but were “at large”. This would allow us to sample diffrent agencies and positions so that we could figure out our best fit before we were committed to a formal position title and home unit.
June 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm #74814
I was hired under the outstanding scholar program. My friends, whom came in thru PMI, are mostly still within government. They made it thru the ranks faster than I did by 2 years. It seems to have leveled at about 13-14 grade after about eight years of civil service. Some PMI and outstanding scholars, whom I think are the exception and not the rule, have made 15 grade and above during the same amount of time. This time interval does not include military time.
I don’t know anyone whom didn’t get to at least a GS 13 which I think is a very decent rate of promotion.
They are all either making very near or over 6 digits a year.
All the Best
June 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm #74812
Agnes C. WandererParticipant
I was hired as an FCIP about two years after finishing graduate school, and I have absolutely loved my experience. I will be completing the second year next month, and I have had the opportunity to do six rotations within my own agency in order to get a well-rounded background for the job that I will have permanently. I have received a great deal of training and very interesting work assignments, and definitely plan on staying in my current agency for a while.
June 26, 2009 at 12:53 pm #74810
Daniel Eric MellebyParticipant
A few thoughts from a recently-converted Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) PMF:
* The selection process should return to a more interview-based process, rather than the long multiple-choice test that is currently in use. Preparing for the original selection process gave PMF applicants a head start in preparing to apply and interview once they were a Finalist.
* The PMF program should be better advertised at schools around the country. To ensure broad regional representation and a rich and diverse pool of applications, resources should be made available to prepare applicants from all schools to have a fair chance at competing for the Fellowship.
* Other agencies should look at the OSD PMF program as a possible model. Though not perfect, it is structured so that the PMF has no “day job,” and thus no supervisor who will have a disincentive to permit rotating freely. OSD PMFs are encouraged to rotate broadly throughout the Department of Defense and the interagency community, conducting five to six rotations in two years that provide a wealth of experience.
* The PMF program should be viewed as a “feeder” program into the National Security Professional Development initiative. PMFs who have conducted interagency rotations are uniquely positioned to continue to do similar “rotations” as part of their broader professional career.
* OPM should work with the Hill to develop Congressional rotations for PMFs. Experience on the Hill, particularly on a committee staff, provides invaluable experience for a future career in the executive branch.
* The federal student loan repayment program should be introduced as an incentive for PMFs. Not only would it relieve a substantial burden from grad school loans, it can be combined with a commitment to service after the Fellowship has ended — to retain those who otherwise might leave government service after the government has invested two years of training in them.
June 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm #74808
I’m finishing up my PMF in a few months, and I agree with much of what has been said above. There is a lot of wasted talent, both in the PMFs who never get placement and the ones who are hired into jobs where they aren’t kept busy or aren’t challenged. In many agencies, there also seems to be a lack of understanding of the purpose and goals of the program and Fellows fall through the cracks. The PMF office tries, but they are understaffed, and we are often left to fend for ourselves with agencies who aren’t so sure what’s going on.
June 26, 2009 at 3:35 pm #74806
Catherine Spain PetersonParticipant
There are many things that could be done to improve the internship/ fellowship process. I am a current PMF finishing up my first year. My thoughts:
-Get rid of the multiple choice test. I have no idea how I “passed” and some of my law school friends did not. Someone that was top of my class, already had an MBA and great work experience did not “pass.” She would have been great as a PMF. Just another example of the government missing out on a good candidate….
-More opportunities in the field offices. I am in a field office, but I literally had to go up to every booth at the job fair to see if there were jobs that weren’t posted in the locality I wanted to move to. Thankfully I ended up talking to the PMF program manager at my agency who was able to get me an interview with the field office, but I’m sure there are others that are not as lucky. You do have to make your own opportunities sometimes.
-Rotations. I am also lucky in that by the end of my fellowship, I will have rotated 7 times through different divisions. However, that doesn’t always mean that there is meaningful work in those divisions for me to do which is frustrating.
I have a lot more, but I think that it might be agency-specific…..
June 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm #74804
I have run the full gambit of federal student positions: STEP, SCEP, and PMF. The biggest problem for me was confusion in my hiring group about what each position was. When I was hired, my supervisor told me I would be an SCEP student, and elegible for benfits, school payment, etc. However, HR hired me as a STEP student. It took 11 months to change this, and made me miss out on many of the benifits that are associated with the SCEP program.
As a PMF, my agency is extreamly difficult to work with concerning training, rotations, and promotions. My manager does not seem to understand that the PMF removes year-in-grade, or that someone can progress on a “fast track.” Guidance or help from OPM to my agency would be useful in working through some of these frustrations. While I love my job and my agency, these frustrations are making me seriously consider leaving the federal service when my PFM is over.
June 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm #74802
I would agree with the comments made previously. A few additional notes:
1) Test: I would reiterate a suggestion made in another post to return to the prior interview-based format. Although I realize the cost-cutting measures that led to the decision to rely on a multiple-choice test, given the nature of the PMF program since its inception (to bring in and develop the next generation of public service leaders in the government), I believe it does candidates a significant disservice. The interview process was challenging and reflective of the types of problems one faces in a federal position. Moreover, the process enabled one to network from the start, develop interpersonal skills and prepare for the final job fair interviews. The administration of a multiple-choice test, though cheaper and less labor intensive, demeans the PMF program and, I believe, weeds out great candidates who may simply not be the best test takers. What that means in this case though, without knowing what the test is looking for, is impossible to determine. I believe this has led to a general feeling of dissatisfaction and devaluation of the PMF as reflected by prior alums who eagerly participated in the interviews annually. Notice of full disclosure: I had a unique situation where I finished an MA, was selected a PMF after going through the interview process, completed my first year of the PMF, left for law school, reapplied at the conclusion of my legal studies and was not selected after taking the standardized test. This goes to demonstrate the haphazard nature of the first round of selections and the lack of a coherent policy.
2) Streamline: You hear this quite frequently but streamline the final “dating game/circus” process of matching finalists with their departments. OPM sets forth the guidelines, rules, etc. yet when it comes to a uniform process of interviewing and hiring candidates, each department acts according to its own unique (and often entirely unknown) set of standards and time frame. Now that I am applying via USAJobs, the process is simply disconcerting at best and futile at worst. Such should not be the case when it comes to the PMF – a premier feeder for new federal civil servants.
3) Advertise. Advertise. Advertise. Absent prior alums placed in one’s department, there is a general lack of knowledge of the PMF, how one can participate and what they bring to an organization. This needs to be dispensed with especially given the regulations passed recently that allow for the national security apparatus, particularly the intelligence agencies, to participate (at least theoretically) in the process.
4) Budgeting. Perhaps set forth a PMF budget from which agencies may select and take candidates rather than rely on their own internal budgeting uncertainties and processes to dictate selections. In doing so, I believe, perhaps there could be a better semblance of predictability as well as transparency not to mention eagerness by agencies to access the “pool” of funds from which they would not otherwise be able to access. Just a thought, recognizing this is admittedly short on details.
Happy to discuss further!
June 26, 2009 at 4:12 pm #74800
I think advertise is a great point.
Look at the outreach Teach for America does for its program. Everybody who is graduating knows about it, it’s seen as the place to go if you are smart and want to serve. PeaceCorps does this as well to a lesser extent.
PMF is only known in MPA/MPP circles. SCEP/STEP/FCIP are barely known by anyone.
I still think we need to copy Teach for America and have an undergraduate flagship program. Like a better PMF. Or maybe combine them and it just has 2 tracks one for people with undergrad degree and one with grad degrees.
June 26, 2009 at 6:21 pm #74798
I think that the PMF program is highly variable among the various agencies. At NIH (where I am currently an at-large PMF), you can rotate through the various offices without a real home office. There is no disincentive to rotating–it’s what you do for the 2 years before permanently converting.
Advertising/program awareness is certainly an issue that we are starting to grapple with. We’ve begun a variety of outreach efforts that we hope to have fully up & running by next year’s recruitment period. OPM, as I understand it, does next to no advertising to schools. Thus it falls on individual agencies to advertise themselves and the program.
The program here at NIH is working wonderfully (I think). While there are small changes I would make in the actual program, I strongly disagree with any fundamental changes to the program.
June 26, 2009 at 8:41 pm #74796
Some excellent points, experiences and ideas shared. Thank you. Several suggestions focus on both internal and programmatic changes especially to the PMF but also external/marketing aspects too.
Are there folks with thoughts and ideas aside from PMF focusing on internships more broadly including FCIP, STEP, SCEP.
June 27, 2009 at 11:52 am #74794
Caleb G. KopczykParticipant
I was hired under the SCEP program. So far it has been an absolute joy–I’ve been able to build up quite a bit of experience while finishing out my MPA.
While I understand that programs like PMF are wonderful at the DC level, programs like SCEP and STEP are breeding grounds for future Field leadership. We need interns in the field simply to start training people for the massive wave of retirements. At the office I work in, over 70% of the people are eligible to retire. In my department alone (14 people), we had one retirement last year (a gentleman who had served his country for 40 years), two this year (both of which have served for over 35 years), and possibly three next year. That is an incredible amount of expertise going out the door. I was fortunate enough to have received training from the gentleman who retired after 40 years on how to do my job better.
By hiring interns through programs like SCEP before these folks retire, the government has an opportunity to pass on a lot of the knowledge and systems that have worked. I have personally learned so much from being a SCEP–not only how to perform well in my position, but how to work well with others, provide better service to our clients, and I have had the opportunity to apply the analytical skills I have gained through my education to practical use. In short, it seems that programs like this should really be expanded. It also gives students an opportunity to learn whether they really want to work in government or not–if they do after their internships, hire them; if not, then they at least gained some valuable experience.
June 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm #74792
Many agencies have started their own version of the PMF basically branding their own FCIP programs. Examples are GAO PDP program, HHS Emeging Leaders, Army AK Leaders, and others.
Generally, I like this idea and maybe we should encourage agencies to follow suit. But we may also want to consider the relations of these programs with the PMF.
And we definitely need a way to track all federal interns. I’ve heard of some that could not get a job at their agency after the end of the internship due to the budget that year. If there was a database of these candidates, we can match them with other agencies still interested in hiring.
June 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm #74790
I am a former Emerging Leader (DHHS program). The Emerging Leaders Program was good providing a departmental rotation experience. We recieved ALOT of training and out of DC job assignment. In my opinion all of the internship programs are what you make of it once you get in the door.
I am excited to see this assessement is taking place.
In my opinions the areas of improvements needed:
1. More diverse recruitment strategy at colleges and universities
2. Monetary incentives ( loan repayment)
3. Develop a strategy coordination for internship programs to work together on some projects or trainings
June 29, 2009 at 1:45 pm #74788
Some things to improve the program:
1) Outreach to students outside of MPA and Law programs.
2) Return to interview assessment. I agree with others that the standardized test did little to assess ability and is not a good indicator for whether someone would do well in government or not.
3) Make sure that each agency has standardized the program. In my agency PMFs were promised student loan repayment and moving expenses at the job fair…some received them, some didn’t. Some received formal offers in the mail, others did not receive their formal job offers until after they’d been working for a few months already. The discrepencies could be solved by better communication processes between HR and program offices as well as OPM ensuring that agencies have a standard protocol they follow.
4) I like the idea others have posted about being “at-large” to try out various program offices or other agenices before converting to a permanent position. Unfortunately, I don’t think most agencies treat the PMF program as the training and leadership program it is meant to be. I am not sure how this can be resolved, but it seems some PMFs are not able to fulfill their training hours because agencies say they do not have the budget to pay for courses or training or cannot afford to have the PMF away from the office for training.
June 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm #74786
I am a current PMF and completely agree with others’ suggestions to market the program more effectively across the country. As a graduate student in Seattle, WA, I applied to the program on a whim and had no idea what a great opportunity it was until many months after I had been awarded the fellowship, especially as I couldn’t make it to the Job Fair. (I think Brian Haugen’s suggestion to have job fairs on other cities is a great idea.) Revamping the PMF website would be a good start. The multiple-choice test and its seeming arbitrariness also made me discount the value of this program. However, I believe the test was implemented in part because interviews can be so subjective, and it’s hard to manage this subjectivity when such a large pool of applicants is involved. Someone was right when she noted the PMF Program Office is seriously understaffed. I would be interested to hear more from those who are doing many rotations in their time as a PMF; it seems to me that it would be difficult to really dig your heels in and get a good feel for an agency if you only get to spend a few months there. I think multiple PMFs should be polled to get a feeling for the best way to manage rotations, though I realize every experience is unique.
June 29, 2009 at 3:06 pm #74784
I’m a recently appointed PMF and I don’t start until the first week of August, so my comments are limited to the initial stages of the program. That said, the application/assessment and Job Fair phases are critical in matching candidates to positions that complement their skill sets–an obvious concept that is not always realized. The best example I can provide is my own. My Master’s is in Environmental Science & Management with a specialization in Corporate Environmental Management. My main developmental assignment as a PMF is as the Regional Invasive Plant Species Strategy Coordinator for the Forest Service. The strategy, leadership, and management skills I gained in my Master’s program will certainly be applicable to my job. However, the subject matter of my position did not immediately match my skills and interests. The Agency has been flexible in allowing me to pursue side projects and details with a corporate focus, but it’s to the benefit of both the hiring Agency and the incoming PMF to ensure that job requirements and knowledge/skill sets align.
The reason why this connection (or lack thereof) may be overlooked stems from the nature of the PMF Job Fair…or should I say “circus.” It’s an incredibly high-pressure, fast-paced situation, and Finalists are often asked to make job decisions within 24 hours. In the long-run, I don’t think it benefits the hiring Agencies or Finalists to push decisions through the pipeline at warp speed. Other job decisions aren’t made on such a tight timeline.
My final comment is in reference to the EPA National Network for Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) Program. Unlike the PMF program, the NNEMS program is crafted for undergraduates. It’s similar, however, in its method of fast-paced recruiting. The NNEMS program also lacks a mechanism to connect current or former Fellows. I worked all summer two floors below another NNEMS Fellow and wasn’t aware of my proximity until my last week. Fellows should be connected to promote networking and professional collaboration. From what I gather, the PMF program does a far superior job of connecting Fellows.
June 29, 2009 at 3:54 pm #74782
No offense to PMFs responding here — I just want to add my two cents about how the PMF program is implemented in my agency. In my experience (with the USDA Forest Service), PMFs are handed jobs they are not qualified for, at the expense of other employees. They are commonly referred to (behind their backs) as Golden Children. So, if you want good job placement, this is the agency!
PMFs, in this agency, are treated with kid gloves and tend to come off as condescending to the rest of us. Between that and getting positions they aren’t qualified to perform, they are universally resented by coworkers. When we hear that a newcomer is a PMF, eyes start rolling.
I truly hope this is a unique experience to this agency. And I do realize that the experience I and my coworkers have had is with a limited number of PMFs — I am sure there are others who are very capable and qualified. I just wish we’d get some here!
June 29, 2009 at 6:40 pm #74780
Just a quick note: As a former PMF, I’m a big fan of the program in general and overall enjoyed the entire experience. The highlight was the promise of a 6 month developmental assignment to Capitol Hill that worked out splendidly. The one disappointment was that the program changed half-way through the two-year fellowship (class of 2005) and some of my initial expectations were never met–i.e., 24 hours of training at EMDC upon graduation turned into piecemeal seminars sponsored by the PMF program. While the seminars were useful, it was the loss of the promised benefit that was frustrating. To avoid these types of disappointments, I would recommend that whatever the program description/requirements are for each incoming class be maintained/grandfathered for that class, even if the program makes changes for the next in-coming class.
June 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm #74778
The coordination, communication, and most importantly collaboration between OPM and participating PMF government agencies is rather limited from my experience, which leads to a degree of tension that is inevitably passed on to the individual PMFs. OPM should have at semi-annual trainings and planning meetings for PMF coordinators within participating agencies (and/or agencies who are considering hiring PMFs). The training would focus on all the aspects of the program from recruiting to graduation and offer best practices tips, etc. The planning meetings would ensure open and timely communication, including updates on the program, proposals for changing elements of the program, presentations by agency PMF coordinators on their respective intern PMF program operations, forum for questions/concerns/recommendations, etc.
II. Review the standardized exam now and regularly with a panel of PMF Coordinators from a wide range of participating agencies. There has been little transparency of the development, content, and strategy of the exam that has now been in use for several years with agencies. While I understand the sensitivity related to releasing such information about an ongoing standardized exam, there are ways to bring in the agencies to share such information and constructive feedback from the agencies on the exam.
III. OPM needs to increase outreach to schools outside the beltway.
IV. Place a cap on nominations and force schools to only advance/nominate the best of the best rather their entire graduating class that as good academic standing. Make the schools do some of the vetting work. Under the current system they have an incentive to nominate every warm body they can to help increase their chances of getting students through the standardized exam…it’s a numbers game. The human element of examination that has been lost with the replacement of the oral exam with the standardized exam can be compensated by enforcing a cap, which will push a certain degree of human evaluation onto the schools.
V. OPM should consider developing a Public Sector Management training course designed for PMFs, in partnership with a university perhaps (much in the same way they have developed the Congressional Briefing w/ Georgetown). The course should be designed to prepare PMFs (who have in most cases never supervised/managed staff) to be successful novice managers within the federal government. There are few (much less affordable) management training courses available that are appropriate for potentially rising managers in the public sector. This is a gap that OPM could fill and would help put the ‘M’ back in PMF.
July 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm #74776
Mark A HillParticipant
I am a former Outstanding Scholar for both the Department of the Army (Logistics) and the Department of the Navy and a former Presidential Management Intern/Fellow – yes, I sampled a few of the programs. This is my take away:
– The Outstanding Scholar programs in both the Army and Navy (especially the Navy) did a much better job of training interns and providing meaningful/challenging work assignements during the three year intern period.
– Performance was tracked by your onsite mangement as well as ‘central’ management to help facilitate progression and opportunities
– All participants in both programs had a ‘senior’ project that had to be completed prior to graduation. That project had to be approved by ones local managment and by the centralized management over the program with a report and out brief to both (I hear that the brief to central management, and in my case as well, was hit or miss)
– Training directly applicable to ones position was required for progression in the Navy Outstanding Scholar Program – if you didn’t complete the certifications, you didn’t get promoted – and may not get hired at the end of the program
– The PMI/PMF program did not (not sure of current requirements) require training in any given ‘area’ nor was the mangement training that was required (with the exception of the one week in Sheperdstown, WV) very meaningful
– Support from ones managment and understanding of the program varies drastically from organization to organization and within organizations – making it difficult to get access to training, mentoring, and job assignments for some
– Little central control or authority to assure ‘quality assignements’ and/or ‘meaningful work’ for those PMI/PMF’s that get hired in the program
– No preference in hiring or promotions once one leaves the program – makes it difficult, in some circumstances to transition to new work and to continually provide meaningful ‘value’ back to the Government – possibly a driver to leave Government for the private sector – especially when one watches Civilian hires from outside at the GS-15 and SES level bypassing current career Civil Servants to make those hires – or placing IPA’s in those positions to ‘fill’ them for two or three years therby limiting upward mobility for careerists (not a bad thing to be – in my opinion)
I am ‘floored’ to read that the selection process has changed so drastically. I had heard rumors that the PMF program isn’t what it use to be, but I had no idea that it had been ‘watered down’ so. This is unfortunate as I concur with most everyone that this ‘pipeline’ of talented highly educated people is one of the mechanisms that should provide the future leaders within Government.
Time in grade requirement are rediculous, in most circumstances, and the arbitrary overlay of ‘required skills at the next lower paygrade’ should be waived or mitigated form PMI/PMF’s to a great extent. Case in point: I was certified as an AST (Advanced Science and Technical) for two different GS-15 jobs. However, when the HR person read my resume, she did not know what Enterprise Architecture (EA) was. So instead of going to OPM for an official read, she admitted that she ‘Googled’ EA and found that it did not meet the requirements for the position and removed me from consideration. Makes one wonder…….
July 6, 2009 at 3:47 pm #74774
Thank you everyone for thoughtful and helpful comments.
We have read each one and adding appropriately to our recommendations.
We are focusing on getting this done by the time of the Google/OPM/Kennedy School conference in the Fall and the NASPAA annual conference and MPA/MPP Advocacy Day on Oct 14th.
Scott Talan, MPA
July 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm #74772
I am just finishing my two years as an EIP. I have loved being in the program, and I think I’ve been able to take advantage of the program. I think there are a couple of areas in need of improvement though:
– the hiring process- took forever just to get word that your resume had been received and that you were being considered, and as I’ve tried to recruit friends and former coworkers into the program, the hiring process has gotten even worse… the new position in my region was advertised poorly (I couldn’t even tell which intern program it was when I read the description, and applicants had to apply in-person at a job fair), was open far ahead of schedule (so folks graduating in the summer were unable to apply) and was left open for applicants for less than a week, if I remember correctly.
– knowledge of the program- very few of the supervisors that I have hit up for rotations has known what the heck this program was all about. Even worse, I’ve heard that some of the home-office supervisors are not allowing their EIPs to fully participate in the program by limiting the number and length of rotations. It would be great if at least the home office supervisors knew what the program was about and what was expected of them and the interns.
Again, these have been small problems for me, but could be improved for others.
July 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm #74770
Why are the programs being reworked?
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