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Should I become a data scientist (or a business analyst)?

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One of the common queries I come across repeatedly across several forums is “Should I become a data scientist (or an analyst)?” The query takes various forms and factors, but here is a common real life anecdote:

“I have been doing Sales for multiple BFSI giants for last 3 years, but I have stopped enjoying my role. After reading about Business Analytics and machine learning, my interest in this area has grown. Should I make a switch and learn data science? If so, How do I do this?

career-path-confusion

When I reflect back on how I took the decision, I realized – I happened to be lucky! The decision was relatively easier for me. Why? I knew the industries / roles, I would not enjoy – these included roles in Sales, roles in Physical engineering and a few others. I was open to roles in data science in retail banks and investment banks and luckily ended up with Capital One.

Today, after spending ~8 years in the industry, it is far easier for me to guide and mentor people on whether Analytics is the right role for them or not. So, I thought, I’ll try and put my thoughts in a framework and share it with the audience of this blog. The aim of this post is to help those people who are sitting on the fence and thinking which job / role is right for them. So, if you are someone deliberating a move in data science or are wondering whether you are a right fit with this industry, here is a neat framework which might help.

 

Framework

I have put a framework in the form of a very simple test. This test is based on the attributes every analyst should possess. You should score yourself against each of the questions (out of the score mentioned after the question) and then add your scores. A good analyst should score more than 70 and any one scoring below 50 should seriously re-consider a decision to be a data-scientist.

 

Should I become a Data Scientist or a Business Analyst

 

Test Questions:

  • Do you love number crunching and logical problem solving – i.e. puzzles, probabilities and statistics? (score out of 20)

By love I don’t mean like, I don’t mean you don’t mind numbers – I mean, do you have an obsession with numbers! Do you love doing guess-estimates at any time of the day – I have done those estimates while I am taking a shower, while I am driving, while I am watching a movie or even when I am swimming (and lost my count of laps)! I know my friend Tavish does these calculations in his mind too – while he is driving or while he is playing badminton. If you want me to space out of a discussion, just ask me a really hard logical problem!

Key:

5 – dread mathematics & statistics, but can face to some extent

10 – Comfortable with mathematics and statistics, but need calculators and excel to work on problems. Don’t mind attempting puzzles

15 – Love crunching numbers and solving logical puzzles anywhere

20 – Can’t live without number crunching and logical puzzles – an obsession!

  • Do you enjoy working / handling unstructured problems? (score out of 20)

An analyst will inevitably be tested against unstructured and amorphous business problems. And it is how you solve these unstructured problems, what decides how good or bad analyst you are. My first project in my first role stated: “In last few months, we have seen a high increase in high risk customers of type X. You need to come up with a data based strategy to measure, control and improve this situation.

Even the business did not have a clear definition of these customers. Can you handle this kind of ambiguity and provide a direction on your own? Do you enjoy these situations or you would rather be comfortable in a more defined role?

Key:

5 – Have tried these problems in past – but not my cup of tea!

10 – A score of 10 would mean, you like solving these problems once in a while (say 3 – 6 months)

15+ – You prefer unstructured problems over structured. You don’t enjoy some one else structuring problems for you.

  • Do you enjoy deep research and can spend hours slicing and dicing data? (score out of 20)

Going back to the first project I faced, it took me 3 months to understand the business, have multiple discussions with stakeholders, bring them on the same page and then mine the data to bring out solutions. You need an outlook of a researcher to be a good business analyst. When was the last time you spent hours and hours immersed in solving a problem? Can you do that again and again?

Key:

5 – You want a change every few hours. You can’t work on a single problem for the entire day

10 – You can work on a research problem – but need some side work to help you out of boredom

15 – You feel the side work is distracting you from making progress on the key problem you are working. Would be happy if they are taken away

20 – Can’t stand distractions

  • Do you enjoy building and presenting evidence based stories? (score out of 20)

A data scientist needs to be a fluid presenter. What is the use of all the hard work, if he is not able to influence his stakeholders? Communicating with data and presenting stories backed by data is one of the most important elements in the life of a data scientist. Imagine being part of companies like Google and Amazon – you have all the data you need (probably more than that) for the domain you are working on, but you need to convert it into meaningful story, present it to the stakeholders and influence them to take the right decision!

Key:

5 – You struggle to communicate my mathematical thoughts to audience

10 – You can manage telling stories with a lot of practice. Can’t think of doing this on the fly!

15+ – Any time, any where!

  • Do you always find yourself questioning people’s assumptions and are always curious to know ‘Why”? (score out of 10)

This is probably the best part and the most fun part! Here is a quote a read somewhere on Linkedin: Arguing with an Engineer is a lot like wrestling in the mud with a pig: After a few hours, you realize the pig likes it. Similarly, asking why comes naturally to a good data scientist. Some of the best data scientists would stop any one and ask for a rationale, if they are not clear – Why did you ask this question? What was your thought process? Why do you assume so? are just a few examples of these questions!

Key:

5 – You only ask questions when they are critical to be asked

8+ – You can’t stand the anxiety of not understanding something! Jumping to ask questions!

  • Do you enjoy problem solving and thrive on intellectual challenges? (score out of 10)

Analysts require a knack of problem solving. Most of the problems businesses would face would be unique to them and it would take a smart solver to solve them. Solutions, which work for one Organization may not work for another – you need to be some one who quickly develops deep understanding of a problem and then come out with innovative ways to solve these problems

Key:

3 – You don’t mind thinking about solving problems – but you struggle.

6 – You can solve problems at times

9 / 10 – You just love the process of intellectual thinking

questions

End Notes:

What is my score? I would score somewhere between 80 – 85 on this test. It is your turn now. Do take the test and let me know, how much do you score? Also, do let me know, if you think the test was helpful or otherwise.

Please note that like all subjective questions, there are no right or wrong answers here. You might score low in the test, but still be the best analyst / data scientist out there. However, the test should help most of the people facing the confusion. If you still remain confused after reading this article, please feel free to share your confusion / query through comments below. It will help you clear the confusion and it will help me improve this framework.

Now that you know that you can / can not become a data scientist, you might be asking “How do I become a data scientist?” Read it here.

If you like what you just read & want to continue your analytics learning, subscribe to our emailsfollow us on twitter or like our facebook page.

69 Comments

  • Paramita says:

    I got 60

  • Sudhi says:

    Hey Bro,
    Thanks for a wonderful article and this gave me a chance to introspect myself. Thanks for the great article! All these days I was like a cat sitting on a wall. Through this article I have made my decision stronger to be a Business Analyst armored with analytical tool (SAS) + being a Business Analyst for the last 11+ years across various domains.

    Once again thanks for this article and I shall promise by doing a noble cause of sharing this article with all the persons who are still sitting like a CAT on the WALL. By the way, I have got 72 marks!

    Regards,
    Sudhi.

  • Jayana Natalia Charles says:

    Mine is 60…..

  • Suman says:

    Does it mean if I score low than 70 I can still consider to be in a business analyst role rather not pursuing a data scientist role.

    • Kunal Jain says:

      50 – 70 is the grey area. You can consider data science as a career option,if you are highly motivated to join and can sustain the motivation for at least 1 – 2 years.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • ABHISHEK KUMAR says:

    17+9+16+12+7+8=69 .. I have just started my career with Analytics after having given lots of thought to it.

    Whether I have made the right decision or not only time(may be 3-5 years) can tell .. but yes, scoring 69 gives me a feeling that.. yes I am on the right track.. 🙂 🙂

  • SPC says:

    I am planning to shift to analytics after 14 years of experience across IT enable/IT/Health care/Engineering industry, I scored 73, though ‘m comfortable with mathematics and statistics, but need calculators and excel to work on problems, but I love solving strategic and number puzzles.
    So is doing mind/mental calculation an important criteria for an analytics? Will this be a hindrance in shifting to analytics world?

  • David says:

    I too am between and 80-85. I don’t mind working within structures. I find the tradeoff between skepticism and working within the confines of expectations to have a reasonable business purpose. Also, sometimes the monotony of side work is often the break I need to “clear the fog” after long periods of intellectual thinking. Also as an analyst, I tend to only focus on critical issues because there is just not enough time in the day to focus on everything.

    Great quiz. I enjoyed it.

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Thanks David. Completely agree on your point to focus on critical issues – Just to be clear, I mean important (and not urgent) when it is written as critical.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • pradnya says:

    I got 78

    What does this mean?

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Pradnya,

      78 is a good score. If you are already a data scientist / business analyst – you have a long way to go! If you are aspiring to become one – all you need is to supplement your skills with right efforts and mentorship.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • sreeni says:

    Hi Team,

    i’m changing my carrer to data analyst..

    what is the best option to change ..i have littlt bit knowledge in microstartegy..

    let me help me on this..

  • Amarjeet says:

    12+10+12+18+6+6=64
    I am putting lots of effort to learn every granular thing in the business problems and learning the art of analytics from every possible way.
    Kunal I would really like to appreciate for creating such a great framework. You are a real Data scientist who can put real life situation into such innovative and logical framework.

  • Ram says:

    Hi Kunal,

    I belive I have reached the right place. I want to ask something regarding mid career switch.

    I am working in an international BPO Finance & accounts domain totally I have 8+ years Exp (5.5L CTC per Annum)…..have a great interest in Analytics I am 32 years of age..though I think age is just a number but dont know what recruiters think.

    I have done BCom & Master of Foreign Trade, I would like to move to an analytics field.
    Planning to join Analytics foundation course with SAS

    Could you please advise me will recruiters will consider my profile for entry level Analyics job?

    I have spoke to One of Trainer in Analytics Training centre, he said my profile will not match with Industry requirement., Now im in dilema, whether to join or not to join.

    Please advise.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Ramachandra

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Ram,

      Which course are you planning to take? Also, which recruiters would you want to target?

      Regards,
      Kunal

      • Ram says:

        Kunal,

        Thanks for your time in responding my query.It’s a business Analytics Foundation course
        Contains below syllabus

        Level1: Certification program on Business Analytics(Foundation)

        Tools covered:

        •SAS Base
        •SQl
        •Macros

        Level2- Certification program on Business Analytics(Advanced)
        •Advanced SAS
        •Excel
        •Core Statistics
        •Applied business Statistics

        I’m completely new to this Analytics world, please guide me which kind of recruiters will prefer
        And let me know Can I go ahead & join this course.

        Thanks
        Ram

  • Ashique says:

    Dear Kunal:

    I m becoming fan of urs reading ur articles in various forums. I m puzzled while thinking of being a ‘Data Scientist”. Recently I got chance and enrolled in ISB CBA 2015 program. Before the enrollment, I talked with a few persons at home and abroad but no one could answer to my satisfaction. Let me share a brief of my personal profile. I am running 34, working in a Bangladeshi leading bank as senior manager in R&D, having overall experience of almost 12 years. I love number crunching, advance user of EXCEL but limited knowledge about SPSS/STAT. Currently m drawing BDT 18L (INR 14 equivalent) per annum. Now I m really confused about my mid-age career shift/job prospect after investing BDT 12L+ (INR 9.5L+). By the way, I scored 72.

    In such quandary pls. help me out.. Thanks in advance.

    Ashique from BD

  • SRM says:

    Hi Kunal,
    I have 3 years of prior work experience in IT industry and currently I am pursuing my MBA.
    I am getting a score of 69 but I am interested in the field of analytics.
    However, I am not able to decide whether switching to analytics/data scientist track after an MBA will be right choice? Does data scientist’s work is more dominated by technical work or functional and whether opting for an analytics profile will be right option?
    Please advise

    Thanks

  • Simon says:

    My score was 73 – what should I do? I love data, using Excel to its limits with the amount of data I am using, but don’t know SQL/R/SAS. I think Tableau is amazing but yet to use it, however I am pretty sure I can learn fast.

    Is this obstacle difficult to overcome?

  • dharmender says:

    Hey Kunal,

    That was an impressing article. This is first time I’m reading your blog, I stumbled upon via Google Alert.

    You’ve sliced all the skills pretty intelligently. The only thing I’d like to add is Programming skills. Do you think they need to be part of the skills, to measure for.

    I got 73. I love number crunching, business analysis, mathematics, statistics and story telling about data. But my biggest fear is programming. The reason is: I tried learning C++, couple of time, in the past but couldn’t get it. And drew a decision that programming is not my cup of tea. Sometimes I think that might be a wrong decision or may be right. For data science I need to learn at least SQL, R and Python. Which makes me feel bit nervous. Right now I’m on fence of making a decision if I should go for data science career or not. Please help me making the decision. Your views would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks.

  • Sheila Greenfield says:

    I got 67. I don’t know what the 8+ means? How do I determine if I take the extra 2 points to maximum of 10?

    Very good to have this framework.

    Thanks

  • Shlomit Jacobson says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the article, I found it very useful for clarifying what are the qualities I will need If I decide to chose this direction.

    I got 89 (13+18+20+18+10+10=89).

  • Ravi Shaw says:

    Hi Kunal,

    Thank you for the great article!

    Currently I am working with an Utility client and having good knowledge in Base SAS, SQL and advance excel. I want to be a business analyst. Could you please guide me.

    Regards
    Ravi Shaw

  • Dinesh says:

    Hi Kunal,

    I score between 54. Which area do i consider. i had 7 years of exp and looking to change in big data and analytics space.

    Please advice and let me know some good training course for big data and analytics .

    Thanks!
    Dinesh K

  • Mukesh Rathi says:

    Hi Kunal,

    Thanks for this framework it really helpful, I am also new to this industry but feel excited.

  • Stefan says:

    I’m around 85 and feel like a philosopher trapped into an engineer body… obsessing about automating problem solving… and looking for like minded people to share the quest

  • Vivek Kumar Singh says:

    Hi Kunal,

    i have gone through the framework.it is really helpful.

  • GK says:

    Answering the questions could perhaps be a bit biased if you already know the interpretation of the score? I have a high motivation to play around with Machine Learning tools, but perhaps not necessarily the right mindset to become a Data scientist with a score of 52… :-s

  • Mike C says:

    Contemplating from devops programming back to something more math-ish/analytical. I’m at 70 or perhaps a bit more, but I’m giving myself bonus points for wondering while taking the quiz whether and how you validated it… 😉

    Thanks for this!

  • SR says:

    Hi! Got an 80, but here’s my problem: (!!)
    I got a 5 each on question 1 and 4, and max score on the rest – Essentially I LOVE scrutinizing stuff, can be a PAIN in the way I ask questions to get to the depth of something, love to spend HOURS in figuring out stuff……..but – I’m just not comfortable numerically!!

    Sure I can look at numbers and come up with insights, pretty valid ones too, but it takes time and effort and I’m not as intuitive as many freshers I know! So what should I do?

  • Anish Baruah says:

    I a 3rd year Engineering student from a reputed college in Bangalore.

    I would really appreciate a reply from Kunal Jain as to what I should be doing while still in college to be a better analyst.

    I wish to pursue an analytics degree from the US right after my graduation.

    Thanks.

  • Nitesh says:

    Hi Kunal,

    Thanks for this article !! I scored 73(Just crossed the boundary ) .I already have decided to shift my career to analytics. I know the statistical tool like SAS and R (Tested my expertise on article written by Tavish ,scored 16/20 in SAS and R ,didn’t attempted Python ).I have done one project on Kaggle .But still its hard for me to get a interview call . Because without any interview I cant show any one one what I know .I have 2+ yrs of experience in Business Analysis and Business Process .Can you suggest me in how to go ahead .your previous suggestion helped me a lot .

    Thanks,
    Nitesh

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Nitesh,

      Here is the good news! I think you are inches close to get the break you have been looking for. Just keep your confidence up and continue your learning with Projects on Kaggle and various MOOCs. Keep learning advanced techniques (beyond linear & logistic regressions and decision trees) and aim to get a one time break into Kaggle top 10%.

      Which city are you based out of?

      Regards,
      Kunal

      • Nitesh says:

        Hi Kunal,

        Thanks for your reply .I am working on one of kaggle project and will try to perform best .I am planning to learn Python which is in demand for almost every analyst job (Python is in more demand than R ).Should I go for Python or any other visualization tool like Tableau . Is there any MOOC to learn Python or Visualization tool .

        I am based in Mumbai but looking for job in other city and ready to relocate .I am more interested in working at start-up so looking for such type of opportunity .

        Nitesh .

  • […] week, I shared a framework to help you answer the question, “Should I become a data scientist (or business analyst)?“. For the people, who clear the cut-offs, the next obvious question is “How do I become […]

  • Chaitanya Prabhu says:

    Good framework to check the preparedness for the Analytics Field.
    My score 70…Presently i am doing Foundation course in Analytics.
    Hope to imporve the score in future.
    Thanks
    Chaitanya Prabhu KH

  • Joy says:

    Very interesting post! Thank you for your insight regarding the attributes which make a person more or less likely to enjoy the field of data science. I have transitioned from a finance/accounting track within the healthcare industry into data analysis in same. This framework has helped focus my thoughts about what skillsets I need to invest time into strengthening to support my transition. I scored a 75.

  • EC says:

    I got 85-90. This is not much of a surprise since I’m a theoretical physicist 🙂

    After research work in University, I would now like to work in data science out of academia,
    so I’m trying to find my way in the world out there. Any suggestion?

    Elena

    • Kunal Jain says:

      EC,

      Wow! That sounds like a really good score. I would suggest that you take up your first job very carefully. Your employer should ideally have good diversity of people and obsession with how data can be used for smart decisions!

      All the best!

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • Cory C. says:

    I am a University Student in Statistics (Minors in Computer Science and Business). Got a 76. Starting to think this is the field I should go into!
    Thanks for the test!
    Cory

  • Jessica says:

    Thanks Kunal, for making this quiz. I’ve been doing a lot of research and am getting started in the field.

    20+10+15+20+10+10=85

    I’m hoping with my background in electrical engineering and mathematics that I seem like an ideal candidate. I know this is the field for me and your quiz confirmed it. I must admit I sat awhile analyzing the quiz. It’s a habit.
    Question is would I need to get another degree in an analytic field such as operation research, management science, or something like that. I love math so I’m wanting to get my master’s in mathematics but if getting it in operation research or management will improve my chances? So can math help me as an analyst/data scientist?

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Jessica,

      You are right, you do look like an idea candidate for the job. A degree in mathematics or statistics is as good as OR or management, probably more relevant.

      You will need Math and Stats as an analyst, so helps to have a degree in those subjects.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • Sumit Savani says:

    Hi Kunal,

    That was an interesting framework. The self assessment gave me an understanding of which areas I am strong and also gave me reassurance that I am on the right track.

    I am working as Operations & supply chain consultant at IBM, currently focused on developing the technical foothold required for executing the Business analytics through R and SPSS. I was just wondering what is the depth of understanding that is required and the dependency on other technical languages like python/Hadoop which I usually hear from the guys who are already there, as being a non IT professional I don’t have any base in these
    languages.

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Sumit,

      It entirely depends on what you want to achieve. Independently R / SPSS are capable of handling most of the challenges, you will come across. Hadoop is only required, when you have huge (really huge!) data and Python is just a programming language.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • Konstantin says:

    Greetings, Kunal!

    Got 75 from your test.
    Currently employed as system analyst in software development company.
    Work with the same systems and same problems all over and over again burning me out, I’ve got tired of all this routine and decided to shift career next year to data scientist/BA.

    Started searching the web for relevant sources of information and found your blog.
    Thank you for it! It’s like to find a stash full of gold!
    Your articles is so helpful, especially about skills and tools I need to master to achieve competence in BA/ data science.

    Thanks again!

  • ankit says:

    sir I have scored 76. I am currently in my final year b.tech from an NIT and I am already been placed at one of the KPOs. Sir i would like to know more about my future prospects as M&A analyst?. that is the profile I have been offered.

  • Yizhe says:

    65
    I guess it is a good start as a new data analyst
    Thank you for the article!

    Yizhe

  • Jing An says:

    I’m definitely 85-90. Feel like this is exactly what I want to do.

  • Vikas says:

    Hi Kunal,

    My score is 71 and I have done graduation in Mathematics and I have done MCA also. I have 5.2 years exp in operation with Infosys. After that I have 3 years of gap. I have practiced Hadoop framework with Hortonworks. Now I am learning Python and Machine Learning.
    Please suggest me, am I going right..??? Need ur suggestion. Its urgent.

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Hi Vikas,

      That’s nice, Hope you have gained good hands-on experience in Hadoop. Once you will be comfortable with Python and Machine Learning, apply your learning to a few datasets and participate in a few Kaggle competitions for experimenting and gaining hands-on experience.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • Rajesh Subudhi says:

    Hi Kunal,

    First of all Thanks to you & your entire team in starting and continuously adding new article to this website. Recently joined a 50hrs session on Business Analytics from EduPristine. From one our faculty get to know about your website and since then I am reading articles published by you & Tavish.

    I am working as a Business Analyst in an IT firm with around 10 years of experience. I have worked for some of the ERP & BI projects as Requirement Analyst. Now I have set my mind to shift to Analytics side. And I find the above framework a right tool to judge whether one should shift to Analytics or not. Thanks for creating this framework. I am sure all the new entrants to Analytics like me will find this framework/tool useful and give a true reflection of their interest. I can say its a Psychometric test to know your Interest for Business Analytics.

    BTW I scored 69.

    Rajesh

  • Elina Jeskanen says:

    100 points! – And note that the most important aspects are, enthusiasm about data, asking and identifying questions, solving problems with business value and last but not least communicating results! Totally agree!

  • Santosh sharma says:

    Hey kunal
    I got 63, does it mean I can pursue career in analytics? I have done B.tech in electronics and comm. Engg. But I don’t have any working experience. Plz guide me.

  • Sorin says:

    Hello.
    I got around 60…I have a bachelor degree as engineer so I’m decent with numbers, but does one needs to know and understand all the mathematics behind predictive analytics or just the main principles of how to use and when to use it? The math behind machine learning it could be pretty advanced and not just crunching numbers and curiosity…
    So, using R for example, do I just need when to choose linear discriminant analysis over linear regression and how to write this in R and how to interpret it? Or more than that?
    I see the advance of technology as exponential and soon enough all this will be done more reliable by a machine instead of a person and just the best of data scientists will be able to continue in the job. The gray area will not exist anymore. What do you think?
    Thanks

  • vishwa says:

    Hello,,
    As for as I know data scientist and business analyst are two different career paths.How can we generalize the above steps to both the fields?I am doing MBA right now and I am confused in choosing my career between these two options.Please help me to choose the right one which suits my nature.I am an INTP personality as per the MBTI test.And also mention which one leads to BI career.

  • Mayank says:

    Hi Kunal,

    Thanks for this Blog !!

    My score is 58 and still an unable to decide what should i opt for .. i am working as a Business analyst from past 4 years.

    Key Roles and responsibilities:
    Requirement gathering, documentation SRS FRS, bridge between technical team and client, UAT, ..
    But now a days as i am looking into the market. Org. demanding technology driven business analyst (pl correct if i am wrong).

    Which is more imp Domain Business Analyst OR Technology Business Analyst? If technology Business analyst are good for long run than for which technology i should opt. Like SQL, SAS, Macros, analytics , etc

    Please enlighten me what should i do in terms of growth and knowledge.

    Thanks

  • Sourabh1987 says:

    i scored 15+15+20+15+8+9=82

  • Parvez says:

    Hi Kunal,

    I got 72 acore. I have done MTech and data mining, text mining was my domain for research. My research work is published by IEEE XPLORE and Springer Scientometrics journal. I am working with MNC as a role of Support with 6 months of experience. Now I have got an opportunity of a role of Analyst analytics from other company. Should I go for it ? I want to be Data Scientist, so is it possoble to get this after some experience in Analyst role?

    Please Reply.

  • Kamal Tanwar says:

    What exactly is a structured problem? Can anyone give an example?

  • I must say..good framework and I scored around 72.This blog is torching the light in dark sea for future analyst.

    Your blog is exactly what is relevant to indian context.you directly hit the bulls eye each time you write.

    But I must point it out as soren said there is quite gap between eligibility for business analyst and data scientist.

    It’s more like what it is engineering to science.

    A business analyst should be able to coorelate and use the front end of tools where as data scientist play with advance mathematical stuff to bring out such algorithms.

    I want to thanks again for the framework and keep the good work going and guiding us.

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