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Storytime! How did you get your start in SAP?

We see many questions in this forums from recent college graduates seeking advice for how to break into the SAP marketplace. I'd like to hear your story! If you are currently working with SAP configuration, programming, security, or system administration (not end user): how did you get your start? This thread is for stories. I am also starting another thread which will be for abbreviated versions which will be more easy to tally.

I'll start...

My journey started as an undergraduate. Although I studied microbiology, I was an ardent computer gamer. As a side effect, I learned about all things PC related including building machines from scratch and the ins and outs of DOS as well as other operating systems. All of this was essentially a hobby.

In 1989 I graduated with a BS in Microbiology and proceeded to UCLA to pursue a PhD in Biology (genetics but part way through I switched to X-ray crystallography). As a poor grad student, I supplemented my income by building computers and installing software for a small client base in Los Angeles. Also, in my first year of graduate school, we were all required to take an "Computers in Biology" overview class. The graduate student who taught it was horrible! I volunteered to teach it the next semester and continued to teach it for the rest of my time at UCLA (under the guidance of the magnificent Professor Simpson.)

My interest in the intersection of biology and computing grew and I frequently helped faculty and students with their computational problems. When the person who ran the computational facility retired in 1994, I knew the systems better than anyone else, so they asked me to take over. I stopped short of my PhD, earned my Masters and agreed.

In the years that followed at UCLA, I spearheaded major advancements to the data center and to the university's approach to instruction (I helped the Biology department migrate instruction from chalkboards to powerpoints/web sites among other projects.). A friend of mine asked me one day what I knew about SAP. I pulled the most recent over-sized Computerworld issue off my shelf, flipped to the back, and showed him the advertisement that claimed SAP consultants earned between $100 and $200 per hour. He immediately went for an interview and was hired. I continued at UCLA for another year or so until my friend called me one day, out of the blue, and told me SAP America was hiring and that I should check it out.

My projects at UCLA were running smoothly and had pretty much plateued. I was confident that others could carry on what I'd started, so I researched SAP in a bit more detail. The SAP architecture and the idea of helping companies improve efficiency appealed to me, so I applied.

I was hired by SAP America in 1998 to work as an SAP Basis consultant. At the time there was not enough SAP talent out in the world, and hiring experienced os/db administrators with no SAP experience was the only way for SAP to get the necessary employees. I'd say at the time I was pretty typical for the new hires. Most had 4 to 6 years of system administration or database administration experience. We had a mix of UNIX and Windows backgrounds in the class. I underwent a 13 week training ordeal and was placed with a senior consultant at a customer site. I worked for SAP America for 12 years before I had to get off the road. During that time I worked over half a dozen go-lives, worked with dozens of customers, lived in Germany for over a year, moved my family 8 times to support projects, and built a network of friends and colleagues that I cherish. Today I work for a small SAP firm who focuses on one geography. This has allowed me to continue with SAP work but stay off the road.

One note: In 1998, there was no pool of experienced SAP Basis folks on the market from which SAP could pull. SAP America did a few more New Hire waves but I think the last I remember was 2004 or so. After that, SAP only hired experienced SAP folks. I conducted the lion's share of the technical interviews for my region (SAP's technical consulting practice was broken into 4 or 5 national regions at the time), so I can tell you my experience was that most applicants to SAP from about 2005 and on got their start in the SAP support group at a customer. I'm curious to hear the stories others in this forum have to tell.

Please include the year you started serious (not end user) SAP work. If you were hired into the position, please relate how your work history/experience compared to others who started in your organization at about the same time if you can. Also, please mention if/when you were certified. I certified in Basis in 1999 and again in 2004 I think. I certified in Solution Manager in 2010ish.

Hopefully we'll get a good mix of functional, programming, security, and basis stories. If I missed anyone (training? org management? project management?) feel free jump in. Don't forget to register the short form of your story too! The question is open to all!

I hope this will be enlightening!

Best regards,

--Tom

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    author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on Apr 11, 2012 at 05:56 AM
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    Hi Everyone,

    This is Ajay from Pune, India. Currently working in IBM India as SAP ABAP Consultant. From childhood I wanted to become a doctor & serve people. But when I saw computer game for the first time in 2000, I changed my mind & took Computer Science instead of Biology for Senior High School (11th & 12th standard). I enjoyed every bit of learning about how PC works, softwares, games etc. Even though in 2001 there was twin-tower collapse & sudden IT doom, I had made my mind that I'm gonna make career as a Software Pro. So enrolled for B.Tech Information Technology course (2002-2006). Now starts the journey.

    I heard about SAP from a friend in 2004 (in 2nd year of my B.tech). He used to tell that SAP is such a big thing & that after B.Tech he is gonna do a 1 month course of SAP & will get a starting salary of 5-6Lac INR pa. We (classmates) used to laugh that it is a big joke. ๐Ÿ˜Š That time it was indeed a huge salary considering the fact that freshers used to get a salary of Max 2Lac INR pa, till 2006 when I graduated.

    I wanted to make it big hence enrolled for MS Information Technology course (2006-2008) from IIIT (1 of the top 10 engineering colleges of India). I got job offer from IVL India & Sun Microsystems. IVL India was the First Company to start providing SAP Services in India long before 1995. But Sun was my dream company hence joined it. Then in 2009 Oracle acquired Sun which started the horrible time in midst of global recession. Also the girl whom I wanted to marry was in Kerala & her family put a condition that they will be ready for marriage only if I work in Kerala. FYI, I'm from New Delhi. There is lot of cultural,linguistic difference between our families. Its like a German marries Japanese ! There is a great novel '2 States' by Chetan Bhagat which emulates my marriage.

    So here I am from New Delhi => Trivandrum, Kerala, looking for job. Got a call from IVL India for SAP ABAP. Went through the written/interviews & started career in SAP ABAP in August 2009. Collabera acquired IVL India. Its office is in Technopark Trivandrum, very beautiful, green, fresh air & what not ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Collabera has a SAP Certified Addon Product called Optisuite. I was part of multiple implementations of Optisute & learned a lot from clients about their respective businesses. Then joined IBM, Pune. I still miss Collabera for its quality work culture & awesome place. IBM work culture is also cool, learning somany things in so much little time. Its great feeling ๐Ÿ˜Š

    So at the end I would say that I got a SAP Career because of my Wife ๐Ÿ˜Š (maybe this is one of cases where people say "There is a woman behind every successful man.")

    Cheers ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Ajay

    http://in.linkedin.com/in/connect2ajay

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    • Former Member Sara G Ayer

      Hi Everyone,

      I totally agree with Sara, in India there is no standardization of salaries at all. I started my carrier in SAP PI in Oct 2011 after completing my B.Tech in june 2011. It was totally unexpected as I was preparing for MBA entrance from Delhi and suddenly in the month of Sept out of nowhere I got a call from a startup company in Bangalore and within a week after the interview i received my call letter to join this company. It was a hard decision whether to go for MBA or SAP as my performance in the MBA coaching was also quite satisfactory. The company hired me at a 5 digit annual salary with a bond, but i joined it keeping in mind the growth opportunities by SAP. Initially it was quite hard to cope up but after a year and a half I started getting comfortable in this company and finally in Apr 2014 i switched to CMC Ltd (soon going to be TCS) and got a good hike and the responsibilities that I am holding today in SAP PI are quite exciting. But now I want to go for Higher studies and I am in same dilemma as i was 3 years ago while choosing between SAP and MBA. Now the dilemma is whether to go for MS from US or MBA from some top class foreign university. In future after completing my Masters I want to come back in the world of SAP. Hope I get some valuable advice from all you learned people on this thread.

  • author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on Sep 29, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    To make a difference you need knowledge. Knowledge is sought with vitality. In the pursuit of knowledge, I knocked on the doors of SAP Community Network (SCN). I have read hundreds of blogs, i have read discussions and I will always do to quench my thirst for knowledge. As a matter of fact, SCN is now part of my life.

    Reading several SCN blogs from talented and exceptional consultants like Ravi Sankar Venna, Colleen Lee, Lakshmipathi G, kishan P TW Typewriter , jitendra kansal and many others inspires this blog. Honestly I am because of the opinions, comments, and contributions of thousands of SCN, members and fellow SAP consultants, I salute them. Sometimes I imagine, how was SAP consulting before world wide web and SCN? maybe someday I will get the answers. My domain and passion is inclined towards SD and MM. Being a SAP consultant happens to be one of the greatest achievements in my life. I always believe in doing my best and as Steve Jobs said "You can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future". Dreams do come true, the dots do connect.

    My name is Benjamin Washiali, alias SAP evangelist๐Ÿ˜Ž, I come from Kenya. Kenya is in East Africa. I live and work in Nairobi City as an SAP consultant. Did I say certified? Growing Up, I wanted to be a pilot, and as a child all I thought of was flying, being like Prince William. I was introduced to computers when I started secondary school education. Honestly, what fascinated me at that time was games, I played them hard, so hard๐Ÿ˜Š. I din't think much about computers by then, flying was still at heart.


    I passed my secondary education and I was sponsored by the government of my beloved country to take a degree in computer science. It's during the times as a university student that I discovered SAP. Accidental discovery, A discovery that became a beacon of hope and a pillar to a great future. A journey that began way back in 2010, while I was still a second year student at the university. It was at the university that I got to know the SAP Ocean as a result of the many assignments, as it is a norm in college. This led to curiosity and eventually a huge insatiable appetite for me to pursue a career in SAP. I read volumes of web pages on SAP. I read stories of ABAPers who coded passionately and integrated SAP with almost any system in the universe. Stories of functional consultants who transformed amorphous ideas into tangible results. Stories and testimonials of fortune companies whose operations had been simplified by SAP. I read the history of SAP and how A1 metamorphosed to the current powerful ECC 6.0 . The more I read the greater the desire for SAP became. The best thing is SAP offers great room for career growth. I was inspired ๐Ÿ˜‰. I wanted to be part of the greatest ERP that man has ever known.


    For every action there is always a reaction, how was I to get into this prestigious career? A career that is so expensive to train bearing in mind that I did not have the financial muscle. A career only for the unique few. All I had was a dream, hope that someday, one day, I will be a SAP professional and be part of the great SAP fraternity. I nursed this ambition with pride and hope. When I least expected, on a Thursday, November 22, 2012, around 11AM East African time, I saw an advert on the Daily Nation, a local paper here in Kenya. Truth be told I had to procure my first set of glasses to really confirm and ascertain that what I was seeing was true and authentic. It was a scholarship opportunity sponsored by SAP in collaboration with the Kenyan government. SAP Skills for Africa:http://www.icta.go.ke/sap-skills-for-africa-graduation-multimedia-university/ This was an opportunity that I grabbed with both hands. I always believe that SAP read my mind, my goal, telepathically and thus the initiation of this noble program.


    Nothing comes easy, everything is earned. but when you want something so much, as Paulo Coelho once wrote in his book, The Alchemist, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it. The selection process was tough, so tough, I mean so so tough. Albeit, I am happy to say I was among the chosen few(80) to be part of the pioneer class of 2013 from a pool of close to 1500 applicants, 1500, talented applicants per se. What impressed me most was the fact that we came from different parts of the country, we were the face of Kenya. Memories that I treasure so much and look back to with nostalgia. The training was exciting, intense, demanding and ooh! exhausting. In the pioneer program, SAP trained four modules FI, MM, BASIS and ABAP, each class had 20 students. I chose MM. For eight weeks, Donkey weeks, weeks that seemed longer than usual, we saw, we ate, we talked, we slept, we goggled and text SAP. Everything about us was SAP. Day and night, we read acres of pages from piles of SAP books and SCN community. Thanks to heavy lunches provided by SAP๐Ÿ˜, that helped rekindle the lost energy. I will surely ask for more. Personally, I was determined and set to the end goal, a dream and this was it. Lest I forget, I hard the highest score i.e I was the best๐Ÿ˜Š. Today I am not only a certified in MM but SD as well. SD came through personal initiative, I invested in myself. For once I felt like Albert Einstein when I clicked on the submit button. SAP made me. As a young SAP cub, It's apparent that I have a long journey ahead in perfecting my skills, with SCN around, the dream is half achieved. In the next few years I will be a force to reckon with in regard to SD and MM.

    Education is the passport to the future, today I am a perfect paradigm to what was said by Malcom X in 1964 at the founding rally of the organization of Afro American unity. Over the past 9 months I have had the incredible privilege of being part of 2 end to end implementations. The second HANA implementation in Africa and the largest implementation for a global IT firm. I have learnt a lot professionally through this implementations. This privilege was only possible because of the SAP Skills for Africa training. As usual, nothing comes easy, getting a placement(internship) in order to sharpen and reinforce what was learnt at the SAP academy, was no different. this was like a mission to Pluto, or climbing to the peek of mount Everest without protective gear. Three months after the training no opportunity had come up. Yet deep down my heart was beating for SAP, I wanted in, I wanted to be part of the incredible planet SAP. Hard work, passion and patience were in trial. Time was flying fast. so I could no longer wait for SAP to place me. I had to move in by self. It is during this period that I knew, determination and commitment is key to achieving what you want. I compiled a list of all SAP partners in Kenya and submitted my applications, but nothing came forth..things were a mirage. The dots were not connecting. I had to change my mode of application. I decided to send direct LinkedIn messages to CEO's in companies where SAP was the backbone here in my home country, Kenya. I send hundreds of them. Only one responded. One that changed the face of my life. Honestly, I still read that message over and over again. He offered to give me an opportunity in SD yet I was trained in MM. I took the opportunity and it has been the best decision ever. Mr. Serge Blockmans, a selfless SAP professional and CEO nurtured me to whom I am. I wouldn't be writing this blog without the help of Mr Serge. Thank you Serge๐Ÿ˜Š. I pray that the world will have many people like you. People with a heart and passion to change the lives of many(strangers) and make the world a better place. People like Mahatma Gandhi, Luther king, mother Teresa, Hasso Plattner and many others who dedicate their lives in making the lives of others better. I have also met many experienced and incredible consultants like Sila Njenga and renson kiogewho have galvanized their knowledge in me. I am yet to meet many. After I left the SAP academy, my life has never been the same again. Now, with every sunrise, I have a chance to make a difference, an opportunity to contribute positively to the society and family. Every night I go to bed knowing that I am doing my part in building the nation. I sleep knowing that the sky is no longer the limit. SAP is a life. ''Education is the great engine to personal development, it is through education that the daughter of a peasant farmer can become a doctor, the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that the child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation": Nelson Mandela.

    Blessed are those who choose to pursue SAP as a career for a more fulfilling future belongs to them. I have just started with hopes that someday I will be a brand and be part of massive SAP projects all over the world.


    There is a lot to be written, but I prefer being brief like a miniskirt๐Ÿ˜ญ , so I will stop here believing that someone will enjoy the read and be motivated.


    Thank you.๐Ÿ˜

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  • author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on Sep 06, 2013 at 05:25 PM
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  • Posted on Apr 07, 2012 at 06:16 AM

    Hi Thomas,

    My path is,......No IT backgorund .......Never think of SAP 18 years back when i joined first job....But was the great attraction to IT industries...

    Bachelor degree in science------> Get in job manufacturing industry in Quality control dept-----> Spent 18 years chemical & petorchemical industies as QC incharge ------> Get oppoturnity as core team while implementation in domain-------> Left job & Join as SAP QM consultant in IT industries--------> From last 3 years SAP QM_PP Consultant...

    It is very intresting and inspiration blog for SAP professionals to start and remain in SAP community..

    Thanks,

    Sunil

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    • Former Member

      Your story is inspirational to many. Some think that it is difficult or even impossible to switch to SAP after 18 years, but as your story attests, it is not only possible but happens all the time. I would argue that for functional consulting, you are far more valuable to a customer as compared to the freshly minted MBA just starting out since you have a wealth of real world, practical experience and wisdom you can provide during the blueprint and don't have to rely solely on what you've read. I'm not saying that MBA freshers don't add value, just that folks are often too quick to dismiss the added value someone who has really lived their specialty can bring.

      Best wishes for continued success!

      --Tom

  • author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on May 30, 2012 at 07:43 AM

    Hi Thomas,

    This is Sanjay from Hyderabad, I have always been interested in developing my career without the support of my parents. My father has his own Firm(Financial Planning). If I would have done B.COM or any other accounting courses, i could have joined him and worked for his firm which wouldn't have required any struggle, but since, i was always focussed on making a career which is different & dynamic and also brings in fame and adds to my individuality, i choose IT. I was a computer-freak in my secondary and higher education, 24*7 on social networking websites, checking in with new application & gadgets in the market, upcoming technologies and many other stuffs. My mother always wanted me to work with my father, in his firm, but i would always deny and convince her that i would make a career and develop on my own.

    I took B.Tech-CSE in my graduation in 2007 from Mahaveer Institute of Science and Technology(Was in top 10 colleges in my state). In the last semester, I was offered a job by HCL Technologies. I accepted the offer. After successful completion of my graduation, I was waiting for a call from HCL for 8 months. In the meantime, i gave few interviews for BPO & KPO's,but nothing was working my way. Finally, i gave an interview as a s/w engg in MAQ Softwares and cleared all the interview rounds. When i was about to sign an agreement with MAQ, I received the Call from HCL. I was confused on which offer to accept & which to deny. I consulted few friend of mine. HCL was offering me SAP-ABAP domain and MAQ was offering me .NET platfrom. All of my friends suggested me to join HCL as its a brand and SAP-ABAP is a course which would fetch me higher pay and recognition with higher opportunities. Since, I wasn't sure about what to do, i started surfing and finding details on net, when comparing .Net & SAP, i understood that SAP is vast and will provide me lot of learning + enable me to understand Business Processes. Finally after lot of survey, I decided to go with SAP-ABAP in HCL.

    I've been trained in SAP-Abap Basics for three months. I loved the software. Every single day, i would learn something new about SAP. After completion of the training, i worked with the acadamy on some research and development in SAP. Today, being on bench(waiting for project to work on),I do not feel disappointed, as SAP is ocean of knowledge. Daily, i come to office and check out with different domains in SAP and feel amazed at its solutions for different realtime scenarios. Right now, I am trying to understand SAP-CRM domain by using some pdfs and other documentation. Do help me with presentations or case-studies which would help me in understanding it in a better and easier way. Hope, I get some project to work on ASAP.

    Today, I feel happy that i made a right decision and my parents are proud of me working in a corporate world.

    Thanks Tom for the opportunity. Hope my story encourages others who aspire to join & work with SAP.

    Regards,

    Sanjay

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  • Posted on Jul 21, 2013 at 02:16 PM

    Hi Thomas,

    You have vast knowledge in the SAP field and i'll really appreciate your contribution through your blog to reach all folks with your valuable thoughts and suggestion.

    I just want to share my break in the SAP career i was completed my MCA in year 2012 while i am in the last semester learned SAP BW/BI from my cousin brother, Only reason to learn this module it is a combination of all the modules and moreover i was bit fascinated in the business terminology so i thought it will make me quite interesting after started learning i just felt my decision was right....๐Ÿ˜Š

    after rigorous work hard..๐Ÿ˜ญ i got job in the MNC but my package was too low to my expectation so i am in mood of change but after reading yours and @Ravi Sankar venna blog i've changed my decision we need strive for excellence instead of craving for money so life is going to good but not as much as challenging i've expected before joining.

    Regards,

    Harish

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  • author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on Apr 29, 2012 at 08:55 PM

    Hi Tom -

    I actually had a unique situation. I was hired as an Organizational Change Management intern on an SAP project my junior year at the University of Southern California. I later discovered that USC has an academic partnership with SAP through which students may become certified in MySAP Business Suite. I jumped at that opportunity, and it was a great hands-on experience. Fast forward a few years down the road, after I'd moved to a consulting firm, I met a guy who was on the Basis team at CSU Chico. He was responsible for maintaining the USC course servers housed in Chico. Small world!

    - Gretchen

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  • Posted on May 04, 2012 at 01:56 PM

    Hi Tom,

    I began in an end user company, a manufacturer of ceramic tiles. After my university in Economics, my former interest was statistics and econometrics. But as my computing skills were weak, I decided improve them. After some time I learnt Visual Basic (I forgot it all now !!!) and after some time woking as a clerical worker I was hired by this company in 1998. In this company I built little applications for finance (I was a kind of Assistant Controller for budgeting, reporting, treasury,...) with MS Access and VBA. In 2000 they decided to run SAP. I became the key user for CO and I was trained in ABAP (in the company we were the only workers with programming skills) for a release 46B. Other of my roles was create the files to populate data in SAP, so, I learnt a lot about dictionary, functional flows and so on. As the key module was SD and there were a lot of gaps, my bosses gave me the opportunity for guessing to solve them (I remember a SAP Mentor calls this learning way 'dirty hands') in typical issues: reports, forms (SAPscript), customizing gaps (CO reports, layout to enter data in CO, ...).

    During 2002 I was trained in some customizing tools (LIS, advanced COPA,...) and after some time I began to do more complicated things in SD (pricing, VOFM subroutines,...) and with ABAP.

    In 2007 I left this company and I guess as a Senior SD in a Consultancy Firm where I was working during a year. After one year I left this consultancy firm because I had the opportunity to work as a Senior Business Analyst (where I go on) because it is a retailer, and I understood that perhaps I will never have again the opportunity to handle an IS-Retail and because I needed return to ABAP.

    Regards,

    Eduardo

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    • Former Member

      Sounds like your road took some interesting turns along the way, but none of that experience is wasted, I'll bet. I'm sure your current employer is benefiting from every twist and turn you took along the way! -td

  • author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on May 21, 2012 at 07:27 AM

    HI Tom and all SAP Friends,

    Well your stories are interesting, i would also like to share my story with you all and would appreciate if you guide me further way in this.

    I have decided to become software engineer ๐Ÿ˜Š when I was in 8th std and was not knowing much about computers except some basic fundamentals. I started my carrier in 2007 in well known Automobile Company called Skoda Auto as an after sales officer which was not at all related to my field (IT field) initially. Parallel I was doing MCA and same I completed in 2010 with so much of hasals as because i was doing job i was not attending the college and MCA being a regular course attendance was compulsary but my friends helped me lot for giving my Proxy in class๐Ÿ˜‰. i used to go to college twice in a week only. I left the Skoda and went to Pune for .net course in last year of MCA after coming from there my marriage got fixed and I came to Bangalore in Dec 2010 one of my husbands Friend had offered me to work in his company (Jockey India) as SAP SD tech support. I thought why notโ€ฆletโ€™s take a chance and I started working in it but I was not known to the depth of SAP that time and its market value. Sometimes I used to feel very boar while working in it as being a fresher I was not having much work to do. But slowly I got hands on SAP SD pricing and many other interesting areas and now I donโ€™t have any second thought about it...I learnt MM ๐Ÿ˜Žtoo small part and ABAP debugging and problem finding in very short span of time. Now my BOSS is dependent on meโ€ฆ.i want to switch my company and my target is SAP Labs I want to see my self working there with all grate SAP people.

    Thanks

    Ashwini

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  • author's profile photo Former Member
    Former Member
    Posted on Sep 06, 2013 at 06:01 PM

    Thank you Ram, for your valuable tip. I will learn, practice and share what ever I gain with the community.

    Regards

    Kannan

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