Posts tagged ‘Career Development’

Civil Engineering: Taking a Hard Line on Soft Skills

Successful real estate investor Barbara Corcoran once said:

So as we leap into 2017 with both feet, make the development of your soft skills a priority.  Here are a few reasons why your soft skills are so important:

Business Development:  Your track record and resume of successfully completed projects may look stunning on glossy marketing pieces, well-written proposals, or a high-end website.  You may have delivered all of your projects ahead of schedule and under budget while maintaining impeccable quality.  Your current and past clients will even vouch for you.  BUT, in developing new clients, if you are unable to connect with them on a personal level and build a trusting and GENUINE relationship where the client actually LIKES you, the odds of landing a new client are slim.

Career Advancement:  Taking the concept beyond just winning new clients, the development of soft skills and relationship building skills are CRUCIAL to the advancement of your career whether you are an EIT just starting out, or Project Manager fighting to break out of the chains of middle management.   In these cases, let’s look at applying the soft skills to the people you surround yourself with.  Assuming that your engineering skills are stellar, company leaders are more inclined to promote and hire professionals they like (or can envision) working with and enjoy being around.  You may be the most creative, on-point, civil engineering design expert, but if you are unable to communicate, or if you ride around on a high horse because you know you have mad skills, you will find yourself treading water for a long time.

Team Building:  Let’s face it, you are only as good as the team you are leading.  As a leader, you need to build trust with and really get to know your team members…both as professionals and as individuals.  Take the time to learn what motivates them, what drives them, what they enjoy doing outside of work, where they want to take their careers, and then build bridges accordingly.   Sitting behind a closed office door all day may allow YOU to get things done, but that short-term success/instant gratification will ultimately force your team to crumble beneath you.  Yes, it takes work, and time, and you may have to work more hours than you would prefer to get your own stuff done, but the payoff will be ten-fold.

In a 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives, 92% indicated that soft skills were equally important, if not more important than, technical skills.  Your ability to develop your soft skills and build quality, legitimate relationships will help differentiate you from the pack and will lead to a rewarding and fruitful career in civil engineering.

Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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January 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

2017: Plan Your Work & Work Your Plan

plan-your-work

I am not a professional coach in any way shape or form, but I have used one on a few occasions in the past, and in 2016 I went through an invaluable exercise in goal setting, as encouraged and outlined by my coach.  I’ve never been one to set firm goals in any areas of my life; I always knew what I wanted to achieve financially, personally, physically, and spiritually, but I never physically came up with a plan…until last year.  Without getting into too much detail, I developed a list of lifelong goals, annual goals, quarterly goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals, but I did not tuck them away in a journal, or just post the list on the frame of my computer monitor.    I worked them into a spreadsheet, and then tracked on a daily basis those tasks that would lead to my goals, and I did this for an entire calendar year.

What an eye opening process this was.  I’m 42 years old and I’m left shaking my head wondering why I did not take the time to do this earlier on in life!

At the conclusion of 2016, I was able to celebrate my successes and understand what I needed to do to continue forward momentum, and I was able to evaluate my shortcomings and understand what I needed to do differently in order to meet or exceed my goals for 2017.   I give credit to the life/professional coach who taught me this process, but I also learned quite a lot from Jeff Olson’s book, The Slight Edge.  If you have not read it, I highly recommend it.

So as you kick off the new year, I challenge you to not just “plan your work,” but “work your plan!”

Wishing you all the best in 2017!

Matt

Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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January 18, 2017 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Self Belief & Embracing Your Inner Badass

“The moment you have the audacity to start believing in the not-yet seen, your reality will begin to shift…you have to change your thinking first, and then the evidence appears.  Our big mistake is that we do it the other way around.  We demand to see the evidence before we believe it to be true.” ~ Jen Cincero, Author

 

 

In my world of civil engineering executive search this is a very powerful statement.  I have the privilege of working with civil engineering executives, leaders, and consulting firm owners who have a vision for growth.   These leaders have successfully built businesses or service lines, but they are looking to further expand into new geographies or new service lines, and they seek our guidance in identifying top talent in the industry to help them achieve that vision.

The challenge is, not necessarily findingInner Badass the candidate who meets the desired skill set, but finding the candidate who meets the desired skill set AND who is able to “believe in the not-yet seen.”  That is, the civil engineer or civil engineering executive who is able to buy into the vision, and who can look themselves in the mirror and say to themselves, “yes, this opportunity does pose some risk, but my past experiences and the success that I have earned up to this point in my career will SQUASH that element of risk!”  In other words, finding candidates who have the level of self confidence to successfully pull off an exciting, and often career changing professional feat.  So many times I interact with folks who rather than seeing the opportunity set before them as  true “game-changer,” they become apprehensive and need to see some sort of evidence that things will work out, when in fact they are the ones who have the amazing opportunity to write the story, or create that evidence THEMSELVES!

Those who have the self-awareness and know how to kick ass and take names, but who don’t come across like a bull in a china shop are the one’s who can TRULY make a name for themselves and make sizable impacts in the growth of an organization.

Let me give you an example.  Right now I am conducting a search for a client – a small firm in the Southwest US who is looking to expand into a brand new geography.  The company president has spent the last 18 months performing his due diligence, getting all the necessary certifications in place, meeting with all the right people and developing relationships with potential clients and partners within that marketplace.  He is now ready to pull the trigger.  We have uncovered half a dozen candidates who love the idea of leading an office, sharing in the profits, and taking an ownership stake in the firm in two years.  They have all the tools, a business plan is in place, financials are out on the table, but in the end, they fall back into the trap of being “comfortable” where they are.  A psychological “flick-of-the-switch” would make ALL the difference for some of these folks.  If they were truly able to assess all they have accomplished up to this point in their career, and then maybe puff their chest just a little bit, their career could end up being quite different.

What keeps me going is that I have indeed been fortunate enough to place dozens of civil engineers in leadership roles where they have been tasked with starting a new group, opening a new office, or turning around a struggling operation..and they have KILLED IT!  It is a great honor to watch some of the professionals we work with really take the “bull-by-the-horns” and make considerable contributions to the vision of our clients.  In the end, it was their “inner badass” that played a big part in their achievements.

As a recruiter, it is frustrating to see some really good candidates turn down some amazing opportunities; not because we lost out on a placement, but because we catch a glimpse of greatness in these candidates, and we only wish they would have caught that same glimpse themselves.

 

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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May 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Missed Career Opportunities & Diminishing ROC

Timing the stock market is impossible…no matter what anyone tells you, it just can’t be done on a sustainable basis.  The same can be said when it comes to career opportunities.  Take a look at this chart:

Missed opportunities

There are a number of different directions I could go comparing your career to the stock market, but my message today is that if you try to perfectly time your career moves you will spend the rest of your career with the same organization.  If you miss out on opportunities that are presented to you for no other reason then “the timing is not right,” then you are diminishing your ROC (Return on Career).    Diminishing returns on career – here is what I am talking about:

  • Exposure to salary compression
  • No exposure to new people, new clients, new cultures, or new types of projects
  • No breaking out of your comfort zone
  • Missed growth opportunities passing you by
  • Creative and lucrative retirement savings programs

I’m not suggesting making a move every couple of years, because I still believe the “job hopping” mentality will catch up to you, at least in the civil engineering consulting world.  But if an opportunity presents itself, and I don’t mean one that is just  doing the same thing with a different company for a little bit more money, those are a dime-a-dozen, but something different and challenging that can take your career to new levels; don’t you owe it to yourself to at least explore the opportunity?  It does not have to be on company time, as most executives and hiring managers we work with are willing to meet first thing in the morning for breakfast, out for drinks or dinner after regular business hours, or even on the weekends.

Quite often when I approach candidates with career opportunities with clients that I am extremely passionate about I am told that “the timing is not right.” I get it, on the surface the timing is rarely right because:

  • You are in the middle of a project – but aren’t you always going to be in the middle of some sort of project or task?
  • You would feel guilty leaving your boss with challenging task of having to replace you or pick up your work that you are leaving behind – don’t you think if your boss was presented with a great opportunity he/she would consider it?
  • You feel as though you deliver great value to your employer and you would feel bad about leaving them in a bind – other valuable employees have moved on before you, yet the company managed to survive, and often thrive!
  • You are waiting on a bonus – there is a strong likelihood that that bonus can be equalized with a signing bonus from your new employer.

It is a great time to be a civil engineer as there are tremendous opportunities available with firms that are creating new positions due to growth, expanding into new services lines, and opening up new offices in new geographies, all of which present enormous upside for experienced professional.  Guess what? The folks that take on those new and exciting opportunities are in turn creating some quality opportunities within the firms they left.  So take a step back and reflect upon all you have accomplished, what your current career situation looks like, and what the future holds for you with your current firm.

Take a good, hard, honest look.

If you do not see that defined path for advancement, or if you find that you are too “comfortable” or “content” in your current role and see that that level of contentment is leading to complacency, then shed the “not the right time” excuse and take some time to explore what other opportunities may be out there.

Wayne Gretzky

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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February 29, 2016 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

CEO or Project Engineer: Value Of Behavioral Assessments

More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.

Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.

Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!

In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!

Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner
President, The MetznerGroup
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

April 30, 2013 at 10:53 am 6 comments

What Happened To The Civil Engineering Internship?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Another casualty of the economic downturn: The Civil Engineering Internship. Recently I received a call from a career development coordinator for the engineering department at a respected University. We discussed the difficulty in finding internship placement for her recent civil engineering graduates. In the past, the department saw each graduate easily find civil engineering apprenticeships. In the past 2 years the University has struggled to find any for their students, let alone jobs post graduation.

When I worked as a corporate recruiter, internship experience was an added value on a resume. Whether it was working with a summer survey crew or assisting in processing plans, the students with experience received favoritism from many hiring managers. These students were perceived as having valuable practical knowledge. One manager said “this student knows what it means to get up and go to work at a civil engineering firm.” He would routinely hire these students over their counterparts who had no relevant apprentice accomplishment.

While some civil engineering firms have been hiring, they are holding on bringing in students. What will the effect be on the civil engineering profession 4- 8- 12 years from now?
civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 31, 2012 at 11:35 am 7 comments

Civil Engineering & Local Politics: Should You Run For Office?


By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

It is that time of year again and the political landscape is heating up! A Google search shows that past/current Mayors of Omaha, NE,  City of East Orange, NJ and Norton, OH were/are civil engineers. Current Portland, OR Mayoral  candidate,  Steve Sung,  spent 32 years as a civil engineer for the city of Portland. With two candidates for California and Indiana congress, civil engineers are “taking to the streets” to lead policy formation.

Recently I asked civil engineer and past Mayor of Frederick, Maryland, Jeff Holtzinger, for his thoughts on civil engineers and local politics. Here is his comment:

“Civil Engineers are a good fit to solve the problems many cities are facing with aging infrastructure and infrastructure that has been outpaced by growth.  I also think the analytical thinking which is part of an engineering background gives engineers an advantage in problem solving.”

As our cities’ infrastructure decays, having a background in civil engineering seems to bring an added benefit to the political table. It would be interesting to see if cities with civil engineering trained Mayors have better infrastructure at the end of their term than similar cities.

What do you think?

May 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm 5 comments

Career Goals: Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Maser Consulting
Associate Civil Engineer and Professional Career & Leadership Development Coach
Click to Connect With Anthony on Linkedin and Facebook
Anthony is the author of a soon to be launched FREE service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner.  Click here to read about this service.

I have said in the past that it is extremely important to have career goals, which act as a destination for where you are taking your career.  It is important when setting your goals, to take the time to figure out exactly what you want, nothing more, and nothing less.

Clearly defining your goal is extremely important.  Use an analogy of driving to a destination.  Is it easier to get somewhere if you only know the city or state or if you know the exact street address?  Your goals act as that street address that constantly tells you where you are going.

In setting these clearly defined goals, you really need to figure out what you want.  Many people will water down their goals during this process because they believe they are too lofty.  By doing this, you are giving up on your goal before you even attempt to achieve it.  Why?  You have the ability to achieve absolutely anything you want to in your career.  When you are setting your goals, just think about your current situation as scenario “A” and the goal you are seeking as scenario “B” AND DO NOT TRY TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET FROM A TO B AT THIS POINT.  When people think about the route they will have to take, that is when they often start the “watering-down” process.  You can worry about action plans and steps you may take later, but when you are setting your goals focus on your desires, regardless of how unattainable you may think they are.

For example, let’s say you have a clearly defined goal of being promoted to Project Manager in the next 18 months.  Attached to this goal is a rule that you set for yourself to work no more than 45 hours per week so that you can maintain your work-family balance.  In reviewing that goal, you might say to yourself, there is no way I can get that promotion if I only work 45 hours per week, so you change it to 50.  You have now altered your true goal and compromised your values by giving up your work-family balance.  This decision was based on a LIMITING BELIEF.

In coaching, we help people with limited beliefs on a regular basis.  A limiting belief is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a belief that you hold, that limits you in some way, shape or form.  Limiting beliefs typically stem from your past.  They may have developed from interaction with someone specific or a certain situation that deeply influenced you.  In the above example, the limiting belief is that you cannot become a project manager by working 45 hours per week.  Why not?  Couldn’t you work more efficiently and delegate more?  Limiting beliefs often prevent us from not only achieving our goals, but from setting true goals.  When you run into a limiting belief, the best way to beat it is to question it!

Where does that belief come from?

How can I let go of that belief?

Now that you are aware of limiting beliefs start to identify, question and overcome yours today.  Doing this will help you tremendously in achieving your lofty career goals!

What limiting beliefs are currently holding you back from achieving your career goals as a civil engineering professional?

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February 16, 2010 at 8:20 pm Leave a comment

Are You Doing The Heavy Lifting?

Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

Babette Burdick Head ShotFeatured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
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Read The Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog

At the 2008 Pack Expo, after a successful presentation, one of my colleagues complemented me and told me I really knew how to do the heavy lifting on a project. I had never heard the phrase before (yes, sometimes it’s like I live under a rock). It’s just the way I do things, and the way the folks I respect go about their business.  After he explained the phrase to me, I thanked him and thought to myself : “Is there any other way to do things?”

I got curious. And being an observer, I started paying attention to Random Episodes Of Heavy Lifting throughout 2009.

I found out there weren’t any. Random acts, that is.

Heavy Lifting is a conscious decision. You Heavy Lifters out there, you know who you are. Some of you own your own companies. Others of you have incredible working relationships across departments within your organization. You may not even be the top dog or the top salesperson or the top achiever. You may not even be a world leader or the captain of the team. You are, however, known as being The Person To Go To: the individual who brings excellence and perspective to the task at hand.

Heavy Lifters are not the same folks as the Hard Workers. Nor are they the same folks as the Savvy Employees. This isn’t about churning and burning or game playing. It pretty much encompasses your  code of personal ethics, which you carry into your work ethics. You either do the work, and do it thoroughly and most excellently, or you don’t do it at all. And you encourage others to join you in doing excellent work. You bring out the best in your collaborators. And you inspire. Because ultimately, when you present, you evangelize because you believe in what you and your team are doing. You plant Possibilities in the minds of others.

Heavy Lifters do not Go Through The Motions. They are not Smiling Joes. Heavy Lifters do not survive because of thin veneers or changing agendas. There is no recipe for Heavy Lifting. You learn by doing. You do so because it’s part of who you are.  And you are not afraid of falling flat on your face, trying.

So who are the Heavy Lifters in your organization? Are they recognized? Are you in a position to recognize them? Do I need to suggest that you recognize them? And incorporate them into your team, if you haven’t already done so?

I’ve had so many extraordinary client discussions in the past few weeks with Owners who are entrepreneurial yet fiscally rooted. They have done the due diligence and heavy lifting to move their organizations out of the economic mire, in a forward direction.

I’m having some wonderful LinkedIn discussions with engineers who have done the heavy lifting necessary to implement change management into their organizations, resulting in new product or service capabilities.  And the potential for creating new revenue streams.

These are the Heavy Lifters. They end up moving mountains, but not alone. They are ordinary folks who become extraordinary simply because they don’t back down in their belief in what they bring to the table on behalf of their organization.  And they have vision – which means they always have their eye NOT on the prize…. but on the horizon.

We are in the midst of creating a new economic business paradigm shift. And perhaps we are making it up, winging it, as we go along. Aren’t most paradigm shifts achieved in this manner?

What can you bring to your organization by shifting your focus to the horizon? Or taking a 50,000 foot eagle’s eye view of your organization? Are you capable of heavy lifting? It shouldn’t be something to shy away from. It’s probably always been your forte. Perhaps you have dumbed it down for various reasons.

Wouldn’t it be so much more comfortable to do what you do naturally?

Are you a Heavy Lifter?

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

Trust Me, I’m an (Unlicensed) Architect
If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?

November 4, 2009 at 10:49 pm 2 comments

Use the Downturn to Make Yourself Part of a Winning Firm

By Bruce Lynch, Vice President of Publishing, PSMJ Resources Inc.
For over 30 years, PSMJ Resources, Inc. has offered publications, educational programs, in-house training and management consulting services to A/E/C professionals worldwide. PSMJ Resources conducts more than 200 educational seminars and conferences annually, supported by major professional societies, including AIA and ACEC. Headquartered in Newton, MA, PSMJ Resources provides more than 150 titles in book and audio, and publishes three newsletters about A/E/C firm management. PSMJ Resources also produces the industry’s preeminent annual surveys on management salaries, financial performance, fees and pricing, and benchmarks for the design firm CEO. On the web:http://www.psmj.com/

I have spent the last few weeks interviewing the PSMJ Circle of Excellence Class of 2009. Circle of Excellence firms ranked in the top 20 percent of firms participating in PSMJ’s Financial Performance Survey that achieve the best overall performance in 13 benchmarks that measure business operations in terms of profitability, growth, cash flow, overhead control, business development, project performance, and employee satisfaction.

Virtually every executive I have spoken with from this exclusive group of design firms has told me that they have used the economic downturn to improve the overall quality of their staff.  Many super-talented people with very impressive resumes – as well as star students coming out of design schools – are available and obtainable for firms that have the muscle to make it happen.

Are you one of these people that’s going to add value to a firm that is prospering in the face of tough economic times?  There are a number of factors that determine the answer. In general, firms that are looking to upgrade staff try to improve their overall position in specific geographic locations, in services offered, and in markets served.  To upgrade at the management level, firms are looking to hire market and/or thought leaders.  In upgrading staff, firms are looking for people with direct apples-to-apples experience with a specific market or service offering or that bring valuable knowledge on the latest technology.

Here are some examples: If you are a project manager and you are a super client champion in a specific geographic area, research firms that may be interested in expanding their services in your area.  Sell yourself as someone who comes to the firm with a ready-made base of new clients.  If you are a K-12 program manager, look for healthy firms that may want to expand into the K-12 market – your addition to the firm gives them the opportunity to hit the ground running.  What if your expertise is in a market that is currently sluggish like residential construction?  Sell your value-add expertise.  Do you have relationships with zoning boards or permitting authorities?  These are tangible benefits that can elevate the profile of a firm overnight.

For non-management design professionals, sell your direct experience with a specific market or service.  If you design health care facilities, get letters of reference from health care professionals with whom you have worked directly.  Having direct experience using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software like Revit is a huge selling point as more firms work on BIM-designed projects.  If you have recently graduated from design school, sell your facility in new software applications and your ability to train up your peers in these applications.

It’s also helpful to have a relationship with a professional recruiter – even if you end up finding an exciting new job on your own, these people have the experience to serve as a sounding board and alert you to opportunities you didn’t know existed.

If you are good and you have the skills and experience that other firms see as an “upgrade”, you will always be impervious to the ups and downs of the economy.

All the best,

Bruce

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July 22, 2009 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

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