Scrum Master Role as a Teacher

Podcast Ep. 159: Thanksgiving: A Scrum Master’s Role as a Teacher with Jesus Gerardo de la Fuente Garcia

Scrum Master Role as a Teacher
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Episode Description:

This week, Dan Neumann is joined by a first-time guest and AgileThought colleague Jesus Gerardo De La Fuente Garcia. Thanksgiving is here, and a lot of what coaches and Scrum Masters do is about giving.

In this episode, Dan and Gerardo dive deep into the role of a Scrum Master as a teacher, leaving for a future episode the two other roles, being one as a coach and the other as a mentor. They explain the meaning of a team, the values implied in it, and how a Scrum Master can foster a safe environment for a team to thrive.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Key Takeaways

  • How is giving perceived by a Scrum Master?
    • Scrum Masters are in a great position to help others to be successful
    • A Scrum Master can cover three important positions: Coach, Teacher, and Mentor
  • What does it mean to be a team?
    • Clear is kind: It is a great way to start to clarify the principles and values of the Scrum Framework for the team to know, not only what they are doing, but why they are doing it. Then they can start to share identity as team members
    • Working in collaboration to achieve a shared goal effectively
    • Listening to other team members
    • Taking everybody’s ideas under consideration
    • Accountability and candid respect need to be present at all times among team members
    • Sharing best practices as well as the bad habits that need to be avoided
    • A team needs to be taught how to be self-organized and be able to make decisions when needed
  • A gift that a Scrum Master can give to a team is having fun
    • Strengthening collaboration bonds and enhancing the team spirit
    • Using mindful techniques and games can help to bring a team together
    • Every member is a crucial part of the team
  • Thankfulness
    • Nothing is for granted; gratefulness needs to be practiced at all times
    • Openness and trust given by team members are well appreciated

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]

Intro: [00:03] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host, coach, and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:17] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. I’m your host, Dan Neumann and today I’m excited to have another first-time guest. We’ve had, I think, over the last several episodes several first time guests. And this one is Gerardo De La Fuente, one of my AgileThought colleagues. Gerardo, thanks for joining.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [00:35]
That’s for having me, Dan.

Dan Neumann: [00:36]
Absolutely looking forward to this and future episodes. Gerardo you approached me, we have the Thanksgiving holiday coming up here in the United States. We eat too much food. We get together with family. We try to avoid talking politics and we go shopping the day after. And this episode is actually going to air the day after Thanksgiving. And you said, Hey, Thanksgiving is obviously about thankfulness and giving so much of what we do as coaches and Scrum Masters is about giving. And so we wanted to explore that topic together. So tell me a little bit about how you see giving as a Scrum Master.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [01:20]
Yes. Following that spirit, then I think that we are on a very great position to help other teams to be successful. Right? So from I, what I, what I see is from three different stances, I know as a Scrum Master, we have different stances that we can be allocated with, but three particular that I read that seem very, very interesting that say as a coach, as a teacher, and as a mentor. Right. So following the first one as a teacher I went to share an experience I have had and some key points that has been that given to them. And that has, that has been a value to all the team members. Right? So the first thing is, this I have, I was assigned to one stirrup team on Scrum. This team has all the roles that, that we know the Product Owner, the development team, we have a business analyst and a solution architect. So it’s it was very complete. However, these, these friends have no had the opportunity to work together before they were all new. So here that, that my first approach was okay. They have very few knowledge of agile and Scrum. So I want to have this as a first approach, like if it was a first date, right. Something on, on that very slight manner. Right. So they can start knowing the why’s and the, what of the agile mindset and also of the Scrum framework, because, you know when, when teams come come from working as a waterfall projects or other kinds of methodology, some forms of seeing things, a daily spirit is disrupted. So we, we, we need to do it on a gently manner. So what I started doing was making these teaching with them, teaching them agile principles, agile values. And then we move on to what is the Scrum, the Scrum values, the artifacts the, the events, the roles and responsibilities. And obviously it is not just like one training session, right? There’s something that you have to bolster every time because, you know, it’s a a maturity curve that the team is going to have.

Dan Neumann: [03:58] Yeah, no, that actually, so I wanted to amplify a couple things that you brought up there. So one, you know, the different stances that a Scrum master can take. You mentioned a teacher, coach and mentor, and then I think it was Christy Erbeck, who introduced me to the phrase clear is kind, I don’t think it’s something that she invented that I’d miss attributed if I tried to, but what you’re talking about with starting a team up, getting clear about what is agile, what are the values and the principles, and then what is the Scrum framework, I think is just a really nice example of helping people get clear about what they’re doing and some of the why they’re doing it.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [04:41] And, and also it’s important those one-on-one sessions with them. Because for example, these, these teaching, we are managing as a complete team, but there can be team members that maybe they’re, they can be difficult, their understanding for them, and that’s also that closeness that we have to have with them. And that follow-up, so we can have all the team on the same book, vibrating on the same way. Right. So then once we cover this part, the next key point that I tried to approach with them was to create a shared identity. And I I’m, well, I am going to make a step back here. There is an article from Barry Overeem that mentioned or compares the Scrum with the chess with plaintiffs. And he says, okay, Scrum is a, it’s like, you’re playing chess because, or you play by the rules of stated, or do you not, is not winning or losing it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s look, you follow that events, you follow the roles or you don’t know, or you don’t. So also that’s, that’s a part of the things that we need to also help them to understand, right. Because maybe there can be like, oh, well, I like them with Scrum, but retrospectives, what is the value that has meant to me? So those kind of doubts or questions as that’s a point in which we, we need to focus to help them understand the complete picture. Right.

Dan Neumann: [06:22] Yeah. And I like I like the comparison to chess. You’re either playing chess or you’re not, and it might be okay, not to play chess, but don’t say you’re playing chess if that’s not what you’re doing. And so I think that’s actually a, really, a really important insight. So helping people understand here’s why Scrum is set up that way. Here’s the value you would hope to get by playing the game by the rules. And if you choose not to play that game, that’s okay. You’re just, it’s not Scrum. And, and that might be okay too. So yeah, that’s a, that’s a wonderful point. Gerardo.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [06:56]
And, and and well, it’s the things that we, that we try to also do to look forward right, with the team to, to try to a year to two, to the Scrum framework. And also once that the team we covered really help them to learn about agile and Scrum next team is the next thing is that they can start knowing what is a team I sharing identity because 6, 7, 8 members that they can never work before. They can say, well, I’m going to work, but maybe I am used to work in silos. So here is a complete different picture, right? So one of the first thing that I tried to teach is what does it take to be a team? And this is working in collaboration with this group of people and that we can achieve a shared goal, that it will be our Sprint goal right, and doing this in an effective way, because always we have continuous improvement. So it’s, it’s something, something amazing here. And also listening to other members. We need to have that openness, that is one of our Scrum values and also talk taking everyone’s ideas on count. No one is the no one has the complete truth, right. And everyone has a specific capabilities and has different different scenarios and situations that, that with that was the they deal with. So it’s important to know, everyone’s point of view and perspective to have a complete picture of a holistic picture of what we’re talking about.

Dan Neumann: [08:43] Yeah. You so, so kind of recapping a little bit. So, so giving people the clarity of this is the Scrum framework. This is the why this is agile, helping them form their identity as a team. A lot of times, it’s, it’s much more satisfying to be part of a team that’s winning, as opposed to being the individual who has their one little part to do. And then helping them figure out how to operate in that. How do we value everybody’s opinion? How do we help them self-manage or self organize.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [09:15] And, and, and also on that on that pace then also, what does it means to be in a team because team is talking about fairness because we have to take each other back because at the end, our goal is a common goal for everyone, not, not of a single person. And also it’s accountability because we rely on the work that each of us has to do. So you don’t have to be babysitting anyone. We are professionals we need, we know what we can do. And we also collaborate between each other to help everything go. And as well, it’s important to have this candid respect. There has to be honesty on situations that may happen on things that are not do not going well. And that is important to say, but here, the glue is the respect.

Dan Neumann: [10:14] And I think thinking of what you mentioned earlier on those, not just getting with the team and doing training, but building the relationship one-on-one, you’ve had those conversations, you’ve built some rapport you know, at one point I’m, I’m going to share what I learned. You have other people in your house, children, and, and a little bit of that background of what, what happens in Gerardo’s household. And it’s some empathy for knowing. Yeah. At some point the child might run in, in the middle of the podcast. It’s fine. We’ll roll with it. I think it’s a different type of relationship than just I don’t know if we didn’t have empathy for the life that somebody else is leading for the situation, they find them in with work, with their manager, what does their manager expect if their manager expects them to be the leader period. And now in a Scrum world, we’re asking them to be self-managing and enable other people to also lead that’s something we would have to navigate with that person and affects the way they might bring themselves to the Scrum team. So, yeah, for sure. Fostering the self-management and helping understand what they’re operating in is a big deal.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [11:30] Yes. And also each of them have have other experiences, right? So it’s important also to share, which were those best practices and, and which were those bad habits that they may experience. So together, we can say, okay, in a consensus, what is the things that we want to work with as a team to add it as a working team agreement and which bad habits we need to avoid.

Dan Neumann: [12:00] Yes. And I liked the way you put bad habits, right? By best practices. Cause sometimes I think people confuse one for the other, oh, we can’t build anything without a fully specked out requirements, doc. Well, that’s not a best practice. That’s a habit and it’s a bad one. So how can we move forward when there’s ambiguity, instead of having this bad habit of expecting somebody is going to remove all the ambiguity in only then will I deliver working software? So I like the potential that those two things get confused quite often.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [12:33] And, and, and that is why also it’s our job to help them on a ride on that clarification, put it on the correct track. Right. And also once for example, we, we, our board, this building the team also the next step will be teaching them how to be. Self-Organized. How they have to be able to complete the Sprint goal, even though there are blockers, even though there are dependencies, even though, because that kind of situation is going to be the day by day. If someone wants to have a sprint, we know problems, that’s a happy that, it is not real. It is not real. And so we need to be we need to take that as something realistic and just put the hands-on to work together, to, to get to the goal.

Dan Neumann: [13:35] I just wanted to touch base on there. One of the, one of the gifts I think you can give to those teams is trying to figure out how can we, instead of why can’t we, I see a lot of new agile teams. Well, we can’t because, you know, whatever, we don’t have this person, we don’t have that skill. We don’t know this. So you don’t know that the requirements instead of shifting to a, how can we mindset? Okay. Yeah. We don’t have those things. How can we do it anyway? What could we do? And so that’s a great gift. Sorry, go ahead.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [14:06]
Oh, thank you. And, and that, that, that can, it has to be always can as, as you may, as you mentioned what can we do, because obstacles and excuses, they will be, is it, oh, many of the teams do that? Right. So what we need is to have a better approach. We’d also in that, in that point, we have to be on these continuous improvements. And also one, one thing that we teach also is the courage for taking decisions, because it happens that the team has to take a decision and say, whoa that the Scrum Master decides, or the proton, or no, no, no, guys, we all are leaders all have a voice, all have a knowledge, and we all have that accountability to take those decisions. So it’s important to raise the hand is important to say something that you see that is, it is annoying to the team, or that can be an input for not accomplishing our goals. And and in that way it will. And, and also that they can be out of sufficient for things. Because for example, they have, they have capabilities that they can, eh enable communication with other teams, right. Or talking on technical ways. But sometimes there are things where requirements that they exceed that capacity. That’s what the Scrum Master jumps in and the Product Owner as well. But they, they need to also be feel that, that safety, that, and also the crews that they can do it by themselves. They don’t need to wait someone else to do it. And you can drive yourself.

Dan Neumann: [16:08] So a behavior in we’ll just call it not so agile environment is, is, is if I have an issue in her outer, you’re my Scrum Master I go, whoa, Gerardo I have a problem. Handle it for me. And some Scrum Masters will just run off and do it. It’s possible. I’m fully capable of reaching out to that other individual in the organization, or sending the email or making the phone call or doing whatever it takes to remove that impediment. And the Scrum Master is actually not being helpful by picking up the activity and doing it for somebody who is fully capable of doing it for themselves.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [16:47] That’s why we need to challenge in a positive way in, okay, what is the problem and why you can imagine all the why’s and the, and the, and then, and asking those, those questions also makes the team members also say he’s right. Why, why you needed another person I can do it by myself? I have no limitations.

Dan Neumann: [17:09] Yeah. I use I use American football, metaphors of a fumble. When somebody drops the ball, the team doesn’t call a huddle to figure out who’s going to pick up the ball, Everett, somebody pounces on it, the closest person, or two or three people pounds on it. We see that in, in you know, football for the rest of the world, too, when the goalie’s out of position, somebody runs and gets in front of the goal and tries to stop the shot. They don’t go, oh, well, the goalie’s out of position. It’s not my job to stop the shot. And so it’s that type of enabling the self-organization for whoever can do the thing, do it. You don’t have to be the best at it. You just have to try. And, and that goes a long ways. I

Gerardo De La Fuente: [17:49]
Love the example because I love NFL. So

Dan Neumann: [17:53] Fair enough. Yeah. And I, and I enjoy the other, the rest of the world’s football as well. Although I wasn’t very good at it to be honest. Well, we’re having fun here. And that’s one of the other things that is we were getting ready. You said, you know, a gift the Scrum Master can give to the team is having fun. Let’s talk about that. Yeah.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [18:14] Having fun is being able to teach them how to build a healthy team spirit, and also how we can strengthen our collaboration bonds. And for example, we have, there are different team games, icebreakers that we can do to increase that engagement, that enthusiasm, and that creativity. For example, one that I have been using is the mindfulness giving some minutes, for example, to breathe slowly, when you breathe slowly, you diminish a lot the stress, also any problems that you may have. So it gives you some, some peace and calm. Also, another technique is focusing on a natural object when you focus on natural object, you see all the, all the different points and details, right. Also that gives you calm as well. Also listening to music and also dip your hands in, in, in hot water. I don’t know you had done this. I didn’t know. I tried and it’s incredible the calm it gives.

Dan Neumann: [19:21]
So that’s interesting, but PR oversharing, but as a teenager, you know, when, when I dunno whatever sleepovers at friend’s house, there was always that urban legend that if you stuck a sleeping person’s hand in warm water, they’d wet the bed. So that’s the only con that’s the only context I have with sticking hands and never did that, but I, I may try it as an adult while I’m fully awake and find out if it’s, if I find it also calming and relaxing,

Gerardo De La Fuente: [19:50] It is good. It is good. And, and also some examples of IDL games that I have been doing with teams is a paper airplane game, the marshmallow tower. I don’t know if you have heard them.

Dan Neumann: [20:03] Yeah. I’ve also heard it called the marshmallow challenge. I believe it’s with spaghetti and strings.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [20:11] 20 spaghetti straws. And also you have one tray of tape, one tray of thread and one marshmallow. So you have to put the marshmallow on top.

Dan Neumann: [20:25] I love it. And have you, so the, the point of the games is fun, but also the learning aspects that come with it. And I’m curious if you’ve run into any resistance at an organization where they said that fun stuff. No, you can’t do that. Have you, if you run into either passive or active resistance to having fun?

Gerardo De La Fuente: [20:48] Not quite much, they are. I can say only one, maybe one or two persons on, on different teams that could have been working, but that kind of exercises of activities is also if there are people that they’re kind of defensive, it breaks down the defenses. It’s, it’s like, it’s very similar to like the one-on-one chatting, starting to know each other. Also, if there are people that I can have resistance, knowing another person having a good talk like we’re having right now, it helps and also breaks all. Look, it brings down the walls. Right.

Dan Neumann: [21:20] I love it. And, and so that hopefully is some reassurance to other people listening to you, the listener try some of these activities. It’s very unusual to get any real pushback on, on trying some of these activities out. So embrace, embrace the fun.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [21:38] And also some examples of icebreakers at that, that I want to share with you has been the life story in five minutes. If I’m an end, it’s very short time, right? To tell about your what is, what does it matters for you? What is important for you and your life, a birth map that this is great. When you have multicultural members on team, on different locations, you put a map, a complete map, and all the people start putting like a flag where they leave and they talk about it, something special with the place where they live. So that in that way you can also componetry with them know more about them. It’s, it’s another way to make the, those a bonding. And also there is an activity called the 10 common things that before the pandemic, it was a great activity that it’s okay. We separate on different teams, all the, all the members and each one, they have to make a list of 10 common things that they have. So for each common thing you have with one member and the, another, you take one end of each string. So at the end you make a full connection of those common things.

Dan Neumann: [22:52] Oh, so an example then thinking back to what you’ve done, you and I, we discussed the national football league, and so we might have a common interest in the NFL. And so we would draw the string would connect you. And I, and then you know, if you’ve got a, a colleague you know, in Mexico or whatever, you could draw the connection of, of having a Latin American heritage or something like that. Right?

Gerardo De La Fuente: [23:16] Yeah. For example, the newbies syncope team that we all enter most of the time, that will be like a four string that we will have.

Dan Neumann: [23:26]
Yeah. So you mentioned the newbies at the end of the podcast, we’ve been advertising basically saying, Hey, if you’re interested we’ve we are growing and we’re growing pretty quickly. And we had a collection of people join the coaching practice in our innovate line of service, roughly at the same time. And so you guys formed the group, you self described yourselves as the newbies, right. And we didn’t, we’re not pointing fingers at you calling you the newbies, but you’re like, Hey, we’re the newbies. And you guys had a bunch of onboarding to do together. You have collaborated on creating intellectual property together. And it’s been I think a really good common experience from what I can tell from, from having not been a newbie, right. I wasn’t invited to be a newbie.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [24:11]
It, it, you know, it gives you a lot of of confidence, because maybe you, when you enter and the, and this has happens to all of us when we started a new job, a new endeavor there is a kind of anxiety. So having people that are on the, like, on the same, on the same track, like you in the same situation, it also gives you that calm and also helps to share because we I can, I can share with you that this group has been more beyond than a team because we have been sharing personal things. And that goes to another level immediately.

Dan Neumann: [24:50] For sure. And you’re sharing internally one of the requests that we have for people that join the practices to share a little bit of a personal map, but a journey map, or just some kind of lightweight mind map that shares, who are you beyond, you know, an excellent agilest or somebody that we just happened to hire into agile thought, right? You’re who are these people? And, and it, I think has gone a long ways towards building some of those common bonds,

Gerardo De La Fuente: [25:19] Because every one of us is a part very important of the team. Everyone has that, that their capabilities and the skills and the way of being helps to make a complete, a great, great group of professionals and human beings. Right?

Dan Neumann: [25:37]
Absolutely. Gerardo. I want to thank you for sharing about the Scrum Master as teacher. And you mentioned early on, there was another facet of coach as, as a giver and giving as a mentor. And so I think what we’re going to do is we’ll make this a two-part episode. We’re going to inspect and adapt. We’ll be agile about it. We’ll make this one, the giving as teacher, and some of the things that you’ve brought to the team from that facet, and then we’ll have a fast follower part two, where we’ll dive into the Scrum Master and giving as the coach and giving as mentor. Does that sound like a plan?

Gerardo De La Fuente: [26:15] Excellent. I love it.

Dan Neumann: [26:16] All right. I love it. The other part of Thanksgiving, we talked about the giving part. So let’s talk about the thankfulness part. You said there were a couple of things that you were particularly thankful for and wanted to share with our listeners.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [26:30] Absolutely. I think that on life from my perspective, we, we have always have to be thankful for everything, right. And anything is for granted. So one of the things that I am grateful first is to be introduced to the agile world. And I, I want to thank it to my and he’s one of my best friends. He, his name is Octavio he introduced me to give that first step on agile and doing the Scrum master course and also the certification. And one, when I did that, I fell in love with agile, Scrum and Kanban, and, and, and I come and embrace it. Like, it is a way of living for me.

Dan Neumann: [27:15] That’s super, so I want to be thankful for Octavio because without Octavio, introducing you to agile, we wouldn’t be talking now. So yeah. We’ll give him a shout out.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [27:26]
That’s correct. Yeah. Yeah. So I’m very thankful in that. And also I’m very thankful on the openness and the trust that each of my Scrum teams member have given to me with the different teams. Hey, have you been working with. Why? Because at the end is, is breaking a barrier, knowing something different and and, and being able to be their coach, their teacher, and the mentor is something priceless. And, and, and at the end that they say Gerardo, I learn from the study, you told us, that’s amazing that people take something that you have already shared for me is, is, is the whole thing. More going more beyond that, the results that song one takes, so something that you share and applies it to their life and that you note that it’s good. That’s incredible.

Dan Neumann: [28:25] That that is pretty incredible. Yeah. I was, I was thinking back to how I got introduced to agile. It was actually in a job interview where they said, what do you know about agile? I’m like nothing, not a thing. But I’m a willingness to learn. And so, you know, that willingness to learn that I experienced, that you experienced, that you’re finding from team members that you interact with, I think is a great part of the agile community, for sure.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [28:53]
Yes, it is. It’s very hard lifting that. And and also I am thankful then for the invitation to be part of the AgileThought family and especially to our coaching practice, because I have the opportunity to share with all my, my fellow teammates my, my skills, my experience, my knowledge, and also to learn from them because we have a very talented, talented team, and that’s the truth. And that’s, I, I’m very thankful for being here and being part of this great company.

Dan Neumann: [29:31] That’s outstanding. And we’re happy to have you in, like you said, we’re, we’re not just asking people to join and learn how, how AgileThought does things and just do that. We, we really expect and look forward to people bringing in their own experiences and helping elevate the level of everybody. Right. You’ve got different experiences than I do. And so your contributions are absolutely welcomed and valued and expected. And I’m thankful that you reached out and said, Hey, I’ve got this topic. I want to share on the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. And I’m thankful that we have listeners who are going to benefit from the advice that you’re sharing with them. So I want to appreciate all the folks that are listening as well.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [30:16] Yes. Thank you. And I think that we always have the opportunity to present with different people. So it’s amazing also on this role as a Scrum Master, being able to be with different people, different teams, and be able to share with them and to make them present and being successful and being great.

Dan Neumann: [30:39] That’s outstanding. And I I’ll invite people if they are listening and got great value from this conversation, maybe they can hop out to their favorite podcast listening app and give us a review because that helps other people find us. So just a tiny ask there for, for folks that are that are listening. So Gerardo thank you again for joining and talking about giving and thankfulness around this Thanksgiving holiday. And we’ll look forward to having you come back. I’m curious if you could share what is on your continuous learning journey.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [31:15]
I am looking for what to read a book that maybe most of you have heard. It’s a Scrum mastery from good to great servant leadership. And I want to say your servant leadership that right now the Scrum Guide has already changed that part of servant and we are leaders to serve. So that, that that’s a quote they want to share. And well, this, this book is from Jeff Watts and basically what capture my attention is that there, there are a collection of stories and practical guidance, so you can increase the skill sets. So you can increase the effectiveness and engagements on teams from a Scrum Master perspective. So that’s, that’s what I’m looking forward to, to read

Dan Neumann: [31:58]
It sounds like it’s very approachable then in the sense that it’s, it’s small stories. It’s not, it doesn’t sound like a 500 page book where people would have to read the whole thing and then try to figure out the value inside all that.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [32:12] And, and in my case, for example, when we talk about the topic and we landed on a scenario, it’s it is understood on a very easier way, right. And also comes together.

Dan Neumann: [32:27] Absolutely. Well, I want to, again, appreciate Gerardo that you joined the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast and shared, and I am absolutely looking forward to having you back again soon.

Gerardo De La Fuente: [32:36] Thank you Dan. Thank you for the invitation.

Outro: [32:40] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests, and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at

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