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NOT, “Just An Admin!”

Have you ever said, or heard an admin say, “I’m just an admin?” I have. And I’ll admit it – I’ve said it too. Then one day I discovered that every admin is valued and the true value of the profession of the administrative assistant!

I’d like to share my journey of discovery with you. It began several years ago when I started working for Mr. H as a temp. What started out as a two-week assignment ended up lasting for seven years! During the first week, he asked me to take care of the accounts payable and receivable.

I told him, “I’ve never done this before. I’m happy to help but I’m not a bookkeeper, I’m JUST an admin.” He said, “Look through our records and see if you can figure it out.”

So I did!

Later he asked me to figure out our DOS Computer Programming.

I said, “Mr. H. I’m not a computer software expert, I’m JUST an admin.” He said, “I think you can do it and handed me the programmer’s binder.”

It took time, effort, mistakes and a lot of painful focus to learn and ultimately, I was successful.

Much later he told me we were going to relocate the office to a town 60 miles away. He asked me to find a location, negotiate a lease, remodel the space if needed and take care of all interior decorating and procurement.

I said, “Mr. H I’ve never done this before. I’m not a contractor or an interior designer, I’m JUST an admin.” He said, “I think you can do it, let me know if you have any questions.”

I got started, one small piece of the project at a time, one step at a time. Three months later I selected the location, negotiated the lease, remodeled the space and purchased new furniture, office equipment, and supplies. The project was successfully accomplished.

Later I was recruited by Mr. W – he made it clear that my first priority was to create a highly functioning admin team and to assist him with his management team.

I told him, “I’m honored to work for you. I’ve been an executive assistant for several years and I’ve received a lot of training but I’m not a facilitator or a trainer. I’m JUST an admin.” He said, “I know you are capable of this assignment and we need you to do a great job. I’ve got your back and I support your judgment 100%. If you run into any road blocks let me know.”

It wasn’t easy, there was trial and error, lots of candid conversations and over time we were not only surviving, we were thriving. Mr. W’s confidence in me propelled my performance to a new level. I rose to his level of expectations. We became a united front and trusted and believed in each other.

Years later, I was working for Mr. K, by this time I had much more experience and was confident in my capabilities. I knew I my job was to make him be more successful with me than he could be without me. We went through a huge reorganization and he routinely asked me for my feedback. I told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear. He valued and respected my feedback, even if the messages at times were difficult to hear. We developed a strong partnership and trusted one another completely.

As I reflect upon my career, I can easily see how I was valued:

  • When Mr. W’s wife told her husband he needed me for his business partner, I knew I was more than JUST an admin. I was a trusted colleague.
  • When I was able to create a highly functioning admin team, I knew I was more than JUST an admin! I was a highly respected professional.
  • When Mr. K and I talked about what he wanted his lasting legacy to be and for seven years I helped make that legacy a reality, I knew I was more than JUST an admin! I was a trusted advocate and business partner.
  • When I helped Mr. K through his transition to retirement and assisted his replacement, Mr. A into his new role as the leader of the company, I knew I was more than JUST an admin! I was a change agent, confidant and advisor.

I know my story is all too familiar for other administrative assistants. We are all more than “JUST” and admin. Administrative assistants go above and beyond and take on new assignments with little to no background, training or experience. Our role is no longer confined to typing letters, answering the phone, scheduling meetings and travel. The role of the administrative assistant requires a diverse skill set, high emotional intelligence and strong business acumen to get through the day to day environment of today’s demanding environment. At any given moment we are asked and expected to be:

  • Calendar Managers
  • Project Coordinators
  • Correspondence Experts
  • Facility Managers
  • Compliance Officers
  • Office Managers
  • Bookkeepers
  • Computer Software Experts
  • Key Influencers
  • Negotiators
  • Change Agents
  • Communication Specialists
  • Vendor Relationship Managers
  • Public Relation Managers
  • Personnel Managers
  • Trainers
  • Facilitators
  • Creative Event Planners
  • Expert Travel Agents
  • Leaders

We are also the trusted confidant, the informed advisor, the compassionate counselor and the ambassador!

Administrative assistants are the ultimate business partner and that is why YOU are valued!

Join me in making the commitment to never, ever, ever, ever say, “I’m JUST an Admin” again! Instead, hold your head up high and say, I’m an Administrative Professional!

By Peggy Vasquez

International Speaker / Author / Chief Executive Assistant

www.peggyvasquez.net

Come see Peggy live at our 24th Annual Conference For Administrative Excellence! You may also buy Peggy’s book, Not Just An Admin here.

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164 thoughts on “NOT, “Just An Admin!””

  1. Sharon Chaplain

    You learn by putting yourself out there. When a superior asks you to do something not in your job description, or above you, think of it not as a pain, but as an opportunity to learn something new. When you don’t learn, you grow stagnant!

  2. Great article – thank you, Peggy. Indeed, I loved your whole book. We admins all too often undersell ourselves but we are the lynchpins of our organisations, and we mustn’t forget it!

  3. Great article. We must always be on top of everything to keep our offices running smoothly so we are definitely more than a “just.”

  4. “Just an admin” is not consistent with the professional image for administrative assistants. We do many things that our executives never know that we do: Great customer service while working with other executives, vendors, inside and outside clients, and others. Being honest, trustworthy, and confidential are examples of what an excellent administrative assistant is on a daily basis.

  5. I went on a job interview recently and it was the first time I heard the executive talk about wanting an assistant who would be a partner and an equal in his office.

    I know Joan is someone who is sharing this mantra with executives and I imagine there are others but I think that’s the other side to this coin.

    We need to hold our heads high and we also need to educate our executives so that they are better at being a partner too!

  6. Great article! I am guilty of saying this too. When I actually look at all I do, I realize that I’m not “just” and admin anymore! I was out on grand jury for 2 weeks recently, and everyone realized how much I do to keep the office running. That’s when I realized I am a very important part of the department.

  7. I loved this one! I have had the idea, and used the phrase “I am not *just* anything!” for decades! It is so limiting and definitely something that we should not say to ourselves or allow anyone else to say to or about us. I remember a day when I overheard someone I worked with saying to someone from another group “she is not just anything – she is Beth.” If that wasn’t a win, I have no idea what one would be!

  8. Thank you for publishing this article Peggy! This phrase extends across the entire assistant/admin profession. When I think back to some of my first jobs right out of college as an Office Manager, House Manager and Personal Assistant I regularly described my job to others using “just” in front of the title way too many times! Being in a support role that requires the wearing of so many hats, all of the skills that are required to carry out each of the numerous functions and the many ways in which we need to constantly pivot are just a few of the ways that set us apart. We are a mind-blowing group that constantly accomplishes the seemingly impossible; a “just” doesn’t fit anywhere amongst all that we do!

  9. Boy was I needing to see this article today. As an Admin. Assistant in a new company, I am facing a few of those ‘candid conversations’ and I am torn between them. I love them because I see it as a learning experience, but I am hurt because I feel I should know some of the things they bring up. With any new company, the transition is going to be tough but Peggy you are correct, as Administrative Professionals we can walk with our head up high, knowing that everyone has to start somewhere and it takes time. Learn as much as you can, and do not take anything personal.

    1. I can feel the conviction in your words Tamitha! Keep at it, one day at a time, one step at a time towards to the life you want to live. Partnerships take time. New jobs take time, don’t overly critique yourself. Happy early APW!

  10. I love this post! I have said, “I’m just a secretary” many times over my career. Only now, 27 years later, I’m realizing that I am a “Jill of all trades” and that I do so much more. I am the busiest person in the office. I’m the go-to, the guru, and the expert on many things. I am not just an admin!

  11. I am not just an admin and people who say that I am really do not know what I do. I am the right hand of my Sr. Executive. We meet weekly to go over the details of the office, his schedule, his travel schedule, his priorities, his projects, his deadlines, and suggestions that I might have for him concerning what is due, how to communicate and what I can do to make certain that his life is easier. If you ask me, I’m his office manager, I’m his right hand (keep in mind that the left hand should always know that the right hand is doing). Which takes me to the fact that he copies me on every single note send with his response. So, am I just an admin – No, I’m his strategic business partner.

    1. Brenda, I know you are much, much more than “just’ an admin. You have always carried yourself like a leader and as long as I have known you, have acted like a strategic business partner. Thanks for being such a great role model. And loved seeing you in Columbus this week.

  12. Really inspiring article. I have also said it several times that I’m just an admin although I’m aware that I am more than that. However, I’m not as lucky with getting such great encouragement from my managers. They know I can do whatever they ask me to do, but they never say it out loud. And sometimes it would be just good to hear rather than just assume that you are doing a good job.

    1. Thank you! Everyone appreciates feeling appreciated. There are times we need to give it to ourselves, just look at all you’ve accomplished in a day, how many times you’ve saved your manager from a challenge and look in the mirror and say, “Job well done!” Happy early APW Viktoria!

  13. I loved reading this. The responsibilities and pressures mount over time, but we have to stop and recognize the trust being placed in us and be humbly honored, not intimidated.

  14. Your message in the article just resonates with me since I read it yesterday morning. It is really inspiring and is giving me a new way to approachprojects and tasks (WITH VIGOR) that I haven’t practiced in a long time. This blog couldn’t have come at a better time as I am now reevaluating my personal brand. Thank you!

  15. us Admins are the heart of the business…we get things done, here there and over there also!

    We aren’t just “an admin” we are confidants, transporters, go getters, sounding boards and that’s just to mention a few…

    We should always be appreciated. :o)

  16. I know I’ve said it…but don’t mean it derogatorily!!! I love what I do & really enjoyed this article! So much so that I forwarded to all my admin group so they remembered it to!!!
    Thanks for one more pick me up!!!

  17. This made me a little teary eyed. I remember saying this to myself and my CEO and he told me, “you are not JUST and admin, you run this place”. LOL. I remember thinking, um, no. However, I’ve come to realize in the last 5 years… they (the exec team) does depend on me and what I do. It’s a blessing to serve them – honestly it is. I love my career and changing the lives of those who will benefit from our product.

  18. Loved this article! I printed it and have it hanging on my cube wall – I really needed to hear that, I was feeling a little down. thank you so much for sharing!

    Happy Friday everyone!

  19. Chandra Johnson

    This is such a great read. It definitely helps me to better articulate my value to my executive.

  20. This is so true! I was attracted to office work in the 90’s and have never looked back. I took training in whatever I could to move up the ladder and have been an Executive Administrative Assistant for over 20 years.

  21. Love this article! Makes me want to raise the bar for myself and really just make sure to acknowledge all the things I do that really no one sees.

  22. Peggy, what excellent reminders of all that “just an admin” can do and accomplish especially when the executive has faith and confidence in you!

  23. Victoria Prestia

    Awesome article. I started at UPS as a temp to clean up the audit process. I wasn’t sure I could accomplish the task. Idea: clean up the paper, save the customer money by scanning their invoices and assisting the customer with billing questions. I was hired as a permanent employee a year later to manage the invoice process for five UPS distribution centers and received employee of the month award.

  24. dezondria johnson

    I remember the first, and last time, I ever said this. I was 21 years old, a college student, and working as a Staff Assistant at the same college I was attending. On this particular day, the phone rang and I answered. The voice on the other end asked me a question I couldn’t answer and proceeded to follow up that question by asking if I could perform a task that was (as is said at my current job) ‘above my paid grade’, so my response was “I’m just an assistant. I don’t know about that.” The voice on the other end was Professor/Dr. Asa Hilliard, and he said to me, “Don’t ever say you’re ‘just’ anything! You are important and you matter, that’s why you are still here. You are and will always be more than ‘just’ whatever you are.” I didn’t know even know how important he was at the time, but it was the very last time I ever said or thought of myself as ‘just’ anything.

  25. I loved Peggy’s blog! It is amazing how many different hats we wear depending on the industry in which we work.

  26. Alexandra McCoy

    Thank you! I am grateful for your testimony! I will never say “I Am Just An Admin” again. Thank you for the encouragement!

  27. I never think of myself as “just an admin” because I feel like at any given moment we are expected to be so much more. We are the ones that people come to when they need answers and we are the ones that serve as an extension of our executives. We can be ANYTHING and we ARE! I just wish others would stop thinking of us as “just an admin” and see how much we really do!

    1. I can feel your enthusiasm, conviction and power Melanie. Keep on being the role model that you are and together we can change the outdated perception of our role. Happy early APW!

  28. Wonderful reminder! A number of years ago I purchased a t-shirt at an IAAP event that says, “Just a secretary? NOT!” Love wearing the message loud and proud!

    1. Thanks for your comment Karen. I haven’t seen a t-shirt like that before, but I’ve been considering creating a “NOT, Just an Admin!” and “Admin Nation!” t-shirt! Happy early APW!

  29. How blessed to work for someone like this! I’ve had my share of bosses and sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t! Right now I’m with one who doesn’t get it and I just have to continue to do my best and wait for the next boss to show up, because that’s how it works. Chin up, head up and be the best version of my admin self! Kudos to the bosses who get it, and congratulations to the admins who grow with them!

    1. Love your comment Kriste! You are a shining example of an amazing admin! Keep believing in you and know your value. We’ll get there, one day at a time, one boss at a time. Admin Nation! Happy early APW!

  30. Wow, I identify with this completely! In a time when my compensation is frustratingly at odds with what my superiors say they value in my work, it helps to know that I am developing such skills by taking on all these assignments.

    1. So glad the article resonated with you Colleen! I have no doubt that the experience you are gaining will serve you well. Keep on stepping up and showing up as a talented and knowledgeable assistant, I have no doubt that the respect, value and compensation will follow. Happy early APW!

  31. I DO love a good gift for any occasion, but I believe the gift of educational opportunities would speak volumes from the giver. Great ideas and another great article!

  32. Thank you, Peggy, for articulating one of the biggest hurdles we face in our jobs – our limited perception of ourselves. Sounds like all of your bosses recognized your potential and didn’t let your title get in their way – good for them! I wish I could see you in Las Vegas in October. Sadly, Las Vegas is one of those “red flag” destinations that management frowns upon, so I won’t be able attend. Talk about perception limiting potential.

    1. You are so welcome Lynda. Please know that not every boss immediately saw my potential. It took time in some cases. I would love to see you as well. Perhaps your management would approve you to take training at a different location. If you need help identifying opportunities, please let me know. Happy early APW!

      1. Yes, please! I am interested in finding other opportunities. I’ve been looking around, but haven’t found a conference yet this year that fits my schedule or location constraints.

  33. Currently, I am reading Peggy’s book, “Not Just an Admin,” and I love it! The comment I have heard Admins make, me included, “I’m JUST an Admin” has always bothered me. I used to be somewhat embarrassed to say I was an “Admin” to people. Then, one day I realized that I have a lot to offer and I am valuable to my company! And when I retire in seven years, I want to leave a legacy that I have changed the thinking of people and how they look at Admins and the admin profession!

    1. Hi Kymberly – thank you for reading my book. I’m thrilled to hear that you are loving it! You are definitely valuable – never forget it! Keep on believing in your legacy, we’ll get there. Admin Nation! Happy early APW!

  34. Such a great article! We so often underestimate our skills and abilities, and lose out on opportunities to stretch and add tools to our kit. I appreciate those “scary” new projects — when I respond emotionally with trepidation, I consciously know it’s something I should try.

  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    I was feeling a bit down today. Feeling I was just a flunkee.
    This was a great reminder we aren’t ‘just’ anything.
    We have value.
    Have a great day everyone 🙂

  36. Early in my career, I worked as an Administrative Assistant in the Human Resources department. I also found myself saying that I was “Just An Admin”.

    It took me awhile to realize that I was unintentionally saying that what I do for the organization wasn’t important. When in reality, I was the first line of contact to the new hires.

    All these years later I say loud and proud — I’m a Senior Executive Assistant!

  37. Thank you I needed this reminder as I update my resume and cover letter. I am proud to be an Administrative Professional!

  38. I was asked at one time, what I did for a living and I proudly stated I was an Administrative Professional. The response: “Oh, you’re a Secretary.” I wanted to cry and was so floored by the response I didn’t know what to say. Then I started working for Mr. P. He recognized my talents and treated me as a his partner. I was included in all leadership meetings and kept abreast of upcoming company decisions before they were announced. He sent me to any training I asked for and cost was not a factor. Mr. P changed roles and I was no longer assisting him but he still occasionally reaches out to me to tell me how much he misses me and I was the best ADMIN he ever had. He encouraged me to reach for the stars and never second guess myself. I felt very valued and still do.

  39. Great message and reminder that our career path covers so many facets of running a business/company/department/division, etc – I’m thrilled to be partnered with my boss, who recently supported a long overdue upgrade to my position. But she didn’t want me to leave and valued my input and I valued her leadership abilities. We are a good mix – we seem to complement each other and most of all I appreciate her genuineness in all she does.

    I think for me its communication that has been the conduit to our success – yes, honest feedback including a “devil’s advocate” perspective, respect and teamwork are just a few of the many components that make our partnership work.

    Thank you Peggy and all for your continual input to making me a better assistant!

    1. Thank you Dawn. I really appreciate your post. So thankful that you’ve had a manager in your career that sees your talent and is rewarding you for your work! Happy early APW!

  40. Many of us need this reminder we are more than “just an Admin.” We need to take pride in our role and the many responsibilities we have supporting our leaders and business, even being an Admin is the launching point of a different career path. The Administrative professional role has evolved with the evolution of technology. We are project planners and managers, communications experts, Jacks and Janes of many trades. I have 28 years experience with my employer and tell people I am like Google for my employer. Google is not “just and Admin,” neither are we.

  41. Loved the article. My Director is always giving me things to do and tells me he know I will get it done. Sometimes I wondered if I would or not, but his confidence in me has built my confidence up greatly. Sometimes we put ourselves in a box by saying,, “I am only an admin”, but we limit ourselves when we do that. Thank God for executives and bosses that help their employees think outside of the box they put themselves in and help them grow. I know mine has done that for me.

  42. Touche – thanks for the reminder that we all have something to contribute to the company. And without our help each day, there would be total chaos.

    We all ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Thank you for sharing your journey. It helps me to look back at my own journey in a fresh way, and I can also see how in each job place, there was confidence instill, and barriers pushed past. Our persception can shift and if we don’t already, allow us to see how highly valued we truly are. Thank you, Peggy!

  44. That’s great that you leaders that trusted you and had confidence in you right away and gave you the room to make mistakes. That is not always the case. Not all executives now how to use or work with their admins or know how to handle mistakes professionally so the admin grows. I give kudos to your leaders!

    1. Thank you Jeana. Please know that the confidence in my leaders didn’t always come easy. Some took time before the partnership and trust was to the point that they believed in me. Happy early APW!

  45. Thank you Peggy for your message today. I will be reminded of your story everyday. I am not just an Admin; I am an Executive Administrative Professional!
    WOW, I feel better and stand taller just saying it.
    Have a great day.

  46. Wow Peggy! This was a great pep-talk! I’ve been in the admin role for the past 16 years with some previous time prior for a few other years. I too am guilty of saying or thinking “I am just an admin” but then there are times when you hear others say, “well, she’s just an admin, she doesn’t count for this” and it’s hard to convince yourself that you count in the grand scheme of things. Even when the VP who inherited you because of downsizing treats you like (I apologize for offending anyone) the red-head step-child no one wants, and she “forgets to include you in some meetings where you end up having action items”, it tends to be very defeating. If they don’t care enough to include you the lasting effect it has on a person’s sychie can be very destructive. I no longer have to deal with that situation as I’m in a new role with people who are inclusive and appreciate me which is great, but it took some time to get that confidence turned around. Reading this is so refreshing and takes me back to when I started with a wonderful VP who started me off in 2001 with such openness, who was so full of recognition, as well as treated me with respect and dignity, like a true colleague who really mattered. I miss those days so much, thanks for the major pep talk! Love it!!!

    1. You are most welcome Julie! Our careers have many twist and turns and even though we may have a few less than positive interactions we can always learn from the situation. I have a free chapter giveaway on my website on creating powerful partnerships and invite you to check it out. Happy early APW!

  47. Peggy’s story highlights innumerable times the “miscellaneous tasks as assigned” part of our admin job description presents us with an assignment that is in unfamiliar, challenging, and uncharted territory. In my 30 years as an administrative professional, I have always found that when I accept a challenge, I learn something new which expands my skillset, and I become even more invaluable to my boss/company and shine brighter than before!

  48. My boss is always saying he putting things in my capable hands. And, usually, I don’t feel capable. But, eventually the job is done.

  49. Gretchen Alario

    Great article. I will stop saying I am just an ADMIN. I am more than that, but I do feel like my job is not appreciated like it should be. Managers don’t realize that without us, they couldn’t do it all.

  50. Barbara Corley

    Wow! This was a shot in the arm for me and made me realize how quickly I sell myself short. Reading Peggy’s story made me realize how easy I don’t give myself credit for what I know and am capable of learning. So sad to realize how easily I hinder my own growth and potential.
    That mentality stops today! Thanks for a fantastic article. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

  51. I have never been “just an admin” but I think the title has been watered down because there is no clear definition. I had an interview for an admin assistant position where the company was looking for someone to do all their taxes and business filings (more the role of a CPA or CGA!) and I have seen positions advertised that are really more reception work yet the company wants someone with a business degree.

    while there are no two admin jobs that are the same, it would be nice to have a clear list of things that distinguish an admin assistant from an executive assistant from an executive coordinator.

  52. Being an AA does encompass more than the standard office skills of scheduling, answering the phone, typing documents, etc. I think it is true that AAs are MORE than JUST AAs, but more often than not, in my experience, employers do not see the value of the AA who has all those extra skills and sometimes still see them as JUST an AA. We DO much more and ADD more value but our compensation doesn’t often reflect all the above & beyond duties and other roles we perform behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.

  53. Such a great post!! I too have said this many times, although I KNOW I am more than ‘just an admin’. In my position I not only assist the Executives at my office I also work on a variety of projects with our accounting, HR, and IT departments. That is one of the many things I LOVE about working as an Admin. No day is the same and the more I am able to show my Executives what I am capable of, the more responsibility I am given. You are all MORE than ‘just an admin’!!

  54. I totally love this. Thank you for sharing that. I can so relate to a lot of it. We are like a jack of all trades. That’s what makes our job so interesting!!

  55. Wow! I could not have said it any better myself. I am glad to see others think the same way about our profession. More and more we are becoming strategic partners vs. JUST admins. Very well put Peggy. Thank you!

  56. Peggy, this is so true. I’ve had bosses that give me much more than I ever thought I could handle. They help you grow. And then you have bosses who stifle you and you need to move on from their negativity. I wish all bosses could realize what their Admin can do for them! Great post.

  57. I hear admins as well as speakers say “just and admin”. I cringe every time. I am an admin. I’m proud of my career choice. And, I enjoy my career choice, most of the time. I also cringe every time I hear someone say “stepping stone”. Why? Why not stay in the admin field? Why not start out in the field you want to be in, if you don’t want to be an admin?

    Admins have the skills you mentioned and more. These skills are used on a daily basis!

  58. Peggy’s message rang loud and clear! It is a fantastic reminder that although there are many days when we may doubt our ability to take on yet one more project, we are more than capable if we can remember how far we’ve come over the years. I’ve experienced so many changes since I started in 1980 as a Jr. Secretary that it’s mind boggling! We can do this!

  59. I too have certainly had to change my way of thinking and that of many other individuals as well. We are no longer ‘just an admin’. We are far more to the people we work for. I have been an Executive Assistant for over 30 years now and have seen the position evolve and I have evolved with it. I love what I do and am happy to say that I am not “just an admin”!

  60. Peggy, thank you for sharing your story. You are a great role model for administrative professionals. I am happy that you and your new executive are working well together.

    Linda A. Orlando, CAP

  61. Thanks for the topic, I struggle with these because I used to do all of the items mentioned in the article. Now, it seems like all I do is answer the phone.

    1. Hi Patti. Keep your head up, keep looking for ways to demonstrate your value. Raise your hand when opportunity strikes. One day at a time, one breath at a time, you’ll get to where you want to be. Happy early APW!

  62. What a wonderful post. I catch myself all to often saying “I am just an Admin”, but many times it is actually my boss that corrects me; of which I am very thankful for the vote of confidence from her. I love the list you had at the end of your blog, because it is so true, we wear so many hats over the course of the day. Our job is to make our bosses look good, which in the mean time, also makes us look good. Thank you for the insight.

  63. Great article. I have felt that way many times. Once you prove yourself, they keep coming back for more!

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