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#1 Networking
30/01/2013 11:45

Civil Servitude

Hi, I'm new here and have some questions about networking and moving from the public sector to consulting at BBBM firms.

My Background.

I have a Masters in Engineering from a top UK University and I will be Chartered towards end of 2013. I have 5 years experience in the public sector mostly in Defence; working in procurement and project management (including secondments to industry). I was then promoted into policy analysis and operations planning. I am about to work in the middle-east for six months (from mid 2013). After this post I will look to move into a consulting firm, but am looking to broaden my networks and get an application in before I go out.

Reason for move.

I am not enjoying the negative work environment, my pay is not great (~£45K) and advancement is poor (shrinking and poor performance management).

What I’m looking for. In rough priority order:

• International travel, including a prolonged stint (2-4 years) in the USA after my first 2 years. Ideally West Coast.

• Good remuneration, +£65K.

• Positive working atmosphere. Employees engaged/upbeat and diverse (i.e. young, mixed nationalities and reasonable male/female ratio).

• A growing area with good opportunities for advancement.

What I have considered.

The obvious initial choices were PA consulting, Atkins, Qinetiq and BAE. I would have expected to enter in the Principal/senior level. However they do not meet the criteria above, especially 3rd and 4th bullets.

I’m currently looking at BBBM, looking to join their post MBA-levels and above.

• Mckinsey seems most promising with their expert career stream and Business Technology areas. Also, they are currently working on a number of projects that I would find interesting.

• Booz&Co also seem very good, however they don’t seem to advertise much. My ideal job would be with Booz Allen Hamilton, doing my current job for more money in the USA but don’t have US citizenship.

• BCG have really impressed me with their employee feedback, demographics and remuneration. Not sure how they are on technology or government work though.

• Bain, not focussed too much on them yet and have heard mixed reviews.

My strategy and Problem

Ideally I’d like to get a referral, or at least someone passing my CV to the HR department. However, my networks into these firms are very limited. My initial strategy was to find a natural over-lap ; initial thoughts were think-tanks such as RUSI or Chatham house but no-one from these firms were there. I’ve also looked at CMA and CIMC events but they are expensive and I’m unsure which to try. I’m looking through my University alumni network and building my network more organically in the meantime.


• What are the right UK networking events to meet the right people at the BBBM firms? Are there specific ones someone could recommend?

• Should I consider recruitment consultants? Would they be able to set up introductions? If so, which are recommended given what I’m looking for?

• How do the BBBM view Public sector experience? Will my lack of business experience and MBA hinder me greatly?

• Have I missed something? Are their other boutiques or technology firms that would meet what I’m looking for?

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#2 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 14:16

DiamondSea to Civil Servitude (#1)

AFAIK Booz do a lot of work with the US government/defense.

If you are sellable (you are the product the consulting company sells), a work visa shouldn't be a problem.

Good luck in the US though, I have heard from both Americans and non-Americans who worked there that there are some studies on how the USA are now one of the developed countries/western powers with the lowest levels of social mobility. The American dream seems long dead...

Also, equal gender split and multinational employees might be a big ask in top consulting firms. They all have local offices for a reason. Big4s especially work very much in silos when it comes to national borders (audit legacy?) and transfers/relocation (even temporary) are 99% downstream only. Assuming the relevant languages are known, the stream is US>UK>mainland Europe.

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#3 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 14:29

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to DiamondSea (#2)

How important really is the "Positive working atmosphere" to you?

Some supposedly "great places to work" are the most miserable, unhappy places I've ever been in. I think they only win those awards because the staff are so paranoid and oppressed that they think they have to fill out the survey and give positive answers because the IT dept is probably watching them. That's just a general comment by the way, I'm not referring to any firm specifically here.

Basically, don't assume that a "good company" is a "good company to work for"...

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#4 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 14:39

marsday to Civil Servitude (#1)

Crikey where to start?

Oh yes. The reality check. I'll be blunt. Very blunt.

What you want:

To join A tier 1 strategy firm - or was that a tier 3 niche firm?

An extended international project in the nicest part of one of the nicest parts of the entire world

A £20K payrise (minimum)

Totty on tap

MBA entry without an MBA

Your questions:

What are the right UK networking events to meet the right people at the BBBM firms? Are there specific ones someone could recommend?

No. On the basis of what you have told us MBB is not an option anyway.

• Should I consider recruitment consultants? Would they be able to set up introductions? If so, which are recommended given what I’m looking for?

Maybe. But you tell an RC you want a 20K raise to go to consultancy after a lacklustre record in public sector, want projects in california, and are looking at post MBA entry (without an MBA) and they will put the phone down on you.

• How do the BBBM view Public sector experience? Will my lack of business experience and MBA hinder me greatly?

Yes. You have nil chance of making it into MBB.

• Have I missed something? Are their other boutiques or technology firms that would meet what I’m looking for?

Your expectations are widely out of proportion to what you have achieved so far. No firm will meet your expectations. Taken as read your expectations make you look arrogant at best and delusional at worst.

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#5 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 15:02

Bushy Eyebrow Partner to marsday (#4)

Loved the comment about "totty on tap". I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but you mars have got straight to the core of the issue right there.

Now, I certainly won't criticise anybody for having aspirations. But really! "Ideally west coast" indeed. "young... and reasonable m/f ratio" too. Not to mention tons of cash, great weather, top tier brand, and a leisured approach to the working day.

Anything else? Free massages every 2pm? Subsidised canteen? Company car? Final salary pension? Fully-loaded BUPA healthcare? A promotion every 6 months? Strict 10am-4pm working hours like the public sector? Half a dozen PAs? Quarterly guaranteed bonus and no sales or utilisation targets?

Man, if you ever find that, let me know. I'm looking for it too

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#6 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 15:44

Anon MCs to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#5)

I'm with Bushy, can I come too? This imaginary consultancy described here sounds ace.

Except he missed out "free beer fridge"

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#7 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 16:24

Civil Servitude to Bushy Eyebrow Partner (#5)

Diamondsea. Thanks, I hadn't thought too much about levels of social mobility and longer-term issues. I've been out on holiday and work; people just seem so much more friendly and upbeat compared to foggy old London. Haven't thought to research company demographics and mobility, will do now though.

MarsDay. OK, thanks for the blunt feedback. Perhaps I am being delusional, I am deliberately being aspirational within my criteria and would expect to make trade-offs. I'll try to clarify what I've said and my thinking:

Pay. Sadly ~£45K is a good wage in the civil service, often equating to managing between 20-30 graduated staff in operational delivery areas. The £65K was a figure I was initially offered by one of the firms (as engineering principal) I have discounted, when they approached me. It is also a conservative exit point others I know have left at my level have been offered .

Totty on tap. Very funny. I suppose my caveat was "reasonable" where I work currently has an average age of >47, with over a 90% males. I'm in my mid-20s, so this sucks, but that's Engineering for you. If 'totty on tap' was a serious consideration I would work as a senior academic.

Lackluster performance. I don't know where you got that from. I was fully sponsored through University, entered onto an accelerated development scheme (effectively 3 promotions from graduate masters entry) and have been promoted off that into a Team Leader position. I'm about to be a senior adviser, salary ~£85K pa but that's mostly overseas allowances.

MBA/Public Sector. This is what I feared. I do understand structured analytical techniques and have an Engineering degree, however if this opinion is prevalent then it seems a bit of a waste of time. I'll continue to look around but I think your response is very revealing of a prevalent attitude.

Bushy Eyebrow Partner. I think levels of employee satisfaction/engagement are really important, it's all relative but the civil service is pretty miserable at the moment. Approval levels towards CEOs are around 20% in my area.

You mean to say if I work BBBM I won't be sipping cocktails by the beach in the afternoon, whilst my supermodel PA(s) are giving me a "massage"? My goodness … how disappointing. I will get my own jet though … right?

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#8 RE: Networking
30/01/2013 16:56

marsday to Civil Servitude (#7)

£45K may be a good wage in the civil service with an operational constituency but in consultancy that equates to top end consultant level and is really grad money for MBB. I realise it is relative. What you fail to appreciate (understandably) is that for the mid market firms at 65K you are on the verge of having to eat what you kill...and doing that with no consultancy experience would be miracle. That you are being promoted to 85K for an overseas role doesnt make me think not lackluster it makes me question where my taxes are being spent. Is that 85 number is due to overseas allowances its not 85 reflecting performance is it?

Totty on tap. If you are in your mid 20s I am sure you can find other routes to meet a partner but fair play I do understand - you want a more balanced mix at work. I wasnt being entirely serious. But if you want a better mix work in HR, or marketing, or dare I say it recruitment. I work in search and am by far the most interesting person on my desk. But then my desk is only big enough for one person even though Im slim built.

MBA. Well, if you dont have one you cant apply for post MBA entry. Santa doesnt exist either. These are just facts. Not revealing of a prevalent attitude.

Public Sector. I love it when public sector people compare their experience as equivalent to private sector and point to congruence between the two and bemoan the lack of recognition and prestige in the former. 5 years in public sector, protected by a nurture culture, formidable unions, legislation which is enshrined in the wallpaper is no comparison to the brutalising peformance culture of the private sector. And yes this is a very prevalent attitude. And like opinions of Celebrity Big Brother is is fact based, inherently accurate, and widely disseminated. You sound like you are on a fast track in the public sector - I recommend you simply continue to ride that fast track. And yes as a tax payer you are welcome. Love it or loathe it pubic sector is devisive - but so is consulting. You will find as many people taking a pop at consultants (peddling dangerous myths to idiots was a good one) bankers (w..) and headhunters (scum/parasites etc). None of it and all of it is true. Difference is we (the private sector) dont get laddered pay rises, huge overseas allowances, job security, proper legal protection, regular recognition or a signed copy of the memoirs of Thatcher/Blair/Cameron to read in the bog.

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#9 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 10:14

DiamondSea to marsday (#8)

Also, in general, you have a bit too much of "letter to father Christmas" approach to the whole consulting thing.

Consulting is more like this:


- your monthly salary (plus minus payroll mistakes)

VARIABLES/UNKNOWNS with each assignment:

- project location (direct influence on what you'll eat)

- project hours (direct influence on whether you can have evenings to exercise, watch a DVD or not)

- project scope and object

- project industry (might be different in your case)

- manager anywhere from decent professional to psychotic arsehole

- peers anywhere from helpful professionals to competitive arseholes

- juniors beneath you anywhere from well prepared professionals to useless/lazy wankers

- client organisation anything between world class to patzers (if they call on consultants, there is probably shyte to be fixed/improved on anyway)

- amount and type of travelling (from few underground stops to 4 planes a week plus trains and taxis)

- year end bonus

- holidays when they suit you rather than when it suits the business

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#10 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 11:39

Civil Servitude to DiamondSea (#9)

Mars. Hadn't thought about "eat what you kill", valid point. I'll make sure I dig into that at interview if I do go in that direction.

Pay. No the money is a mixture of danger, overtime and hardship pay. 6 months, no weekends (working in-country) and a two week break in the middle, in a very hostile environment. For what I'm doing and the benefits I'm delivering, I'm worth every penny. The top performance award I have received (and that is possible at my level) is £1.2K. I may however maybe get an MBE one-day. If you want to look into public service pay have a look at the tax-free slush funds that are NATO/UN pay scales. Also, coming out of your taxes.

Public Sector. The nurture culture is one of the reasons I joined and (in many ways) they have been very good to me. Sadly I share some of your views on the private sector, however, some of us are hard-working, passionate and competent (sadly we are the minority). It is a real shame to be tarred with the same brush. Hopefully my CV will stand-out and differentiate me effectively, regardless of whether I continue down this path.

The fast track in the public sector is not working for me because (try as I might) I cannot identify any career role models, looking around me I can't see a Director who really impresses me with what they've done in their work and life. Another issue is that even at that level, salaries top out around £100K. Hence wanting to move sectors and out of the country is a much deeper and longer-term decision than perhaps I've communicated. The few people I have true respect for (and aspire towards long-term) are in the US, sadly they have grown up there though.

Consultancy. I never said above why I wanted to do consultancy. It is because I thrive in providing fresh eyes to projects, really listening to customers and stakeholders and providing practical products/solutions. I have moved from place to place in the CS and doing that, fixing things and then moving is what I've done best. I've done this in complex, time-critical and vitally important areas (in CS and industry). I'm convinced there would be strong read-across and there is MBA level entry for advanced studies (PhD, MD and Masters) students. I accept that I'll have to lower my expectations for MBBB (perhaps going for a different route entirely) but sleeping on what you've said, it hasn't changed my overall direction (just tempered my expectations and trade-off points).

DiamondSea. Well it was only an aspirational criteria. The travelling side of things and working with "challenging/developing" clients isn't so bad. Managers/peers being rubbish however is a show-stopper. This is the main reason I was thinking of going for MBBB because of their calibre of personnel and positive feedback from previous employees.

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#11 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 11:54

DiamondSea to Civil Servitude (#10)

No, sorry, you missed the point.

What I was trying to say is that there are very FEW certain things in consulting and a lot of flexibility is needed.

For each project, it's as if you rolled a pair of dice for each of the 11 things that I listed as a variable. You'll never get eleven 12s, but you'll never get eleven 2s either.

There'll be some low scores and some high scores and 90% of the attitude of a dutiful/good consultant is to focus on the few 12s or 11s or 10s you'll get for the project and make do with the 2s, 3s and 4s.

Your initial expectation was a wishlist of many many things being pretty close to many, many 12s. I don't deny there might be a place like that somewhere in the world of employment, but sure you won't find it in consulting due to the extreme variability of the day-to-day work when it comes to location/colleagues/project/client/gender split etc.

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#12 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 13:07

Camster to Civil Servitude (#1)

To the OP,


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#13 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 13:21

Mr Cool to Camster (#12)

Camster! so they DO have internet access in Bolivia/Ecuador/Belize*

*delight as appropriate

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#14 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 13:36

Happy to Civil Servitude (#10)

You 'may' be great at your job, and you 'may' have all the transferrable skills in the world, but you are in the wrong place.

There are plenty of people with your qualifications and background (or better) at the top business schools of the world. The top consulting companies recruit at these business schools because:

1) They know exactly what they will get

2) It is cost effective and convenient

Many candidates that are potentially better than those hired by MBB and the like are overlooked because they don't fit the recruitment cycle/pattern. You may or may not be one such candidate, either way it doesn't matter as it's just easier for me to hire someone like you from HBS.

In summary - you're mid twenties, if you really want to make this move, maximize your chances by going to a top business school

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#15 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 14:32

Civil Servitude to Happy (#14)

Diamondsea. Yes, you are right and I completely missed what you were trying to say. I thought you meant different companies were like that and each one was like rolling a dice. I hadn't considered the variability of project to project and that's a big oversight (probably because in my mind I was busy sunning myself on a beach in LA). Perhaps choosing the right firm/project is a bit like weighting some of these factors (i.e. making it more likely to get a 12 in some areas) … very interesting and something I hadn't considered. Thanks.

Happy. I'm sure this is going to come across as arrogance from someone in his mid-20s but there are not plenty of people at business schools with my experience. It's why the boutique companies are offering me principal roles.

I think that's the point though, it's technology experience that sells me and I'm very short on the business experience I'd need to be a success at MBBB. Getting the feeling that except for Mckinsey's advanced technology areas, I'm probably wasting my time (or underselling myself) trying to get a general consultancy role at these firms. Perhaps a business degree is the way forward if this is the route I chose. However a better approach may be to re-focus on the right boutique or (forgetting consultancy) the right company for me. Thanks for your advice.

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#16 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 14:39

Enguerran to Happy (#14)

Hello -

Making a transition from civil service to a top tier consultancy is a definitely a possibility. However you should expect these firms to put a very high bar on the rest of your credentials just to get to interview - particularly in current market conditions. You will most likely need to have a combination of:

- Exceptional academics (High 2.1 at Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE)

- Strong evidence of numeracy

- Fast track career progression in a function that exposed you to senior management and strategic issues

- Exceptional achievements in other fields (e.g., sports, community)

Also, firms are unlikely to give you a post-MBA role without prior business experience. However they may give you a role that is a year or so below that.



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#17 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 15:26

Happy to Civil Servitude (#15)

I'm sure this is going to come across as arrogance from someone in his mid-20s but there are not plenty of people at business schools with my experience. It's why the boutique companies are offering me principal roles.

So now you have offers??

When I say 'people with your experience', I mean people with engineering type backgrounds and public sector experience. And I can assure you there are quite a few of those about

You may have very bespoke experience which makes you valuable to a company (likely a boutique) looking for that niche, but that experience is unlikely to be particularly valuable for the generalist route at McKinsey.

Therefore, despite your potentially incredibly unusual and high-powered experience, the McKinseys of the world are still far more likely to hire someone from business school that has a slightly different (but ultimately the same) engineering public sector background.

You say you may be underselling yourself. If I read you correctly and you have very niche experience, then I fear you are actually over-selling yourself to all but a few very bespoke boutiques. In that respect, I agree with the last paragraph you wrote.

But of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and what's the harm in applying?

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#18 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 16:18

DiamondSea to Happy (#17)

I very much echo Happy's last post. It's not only about your skills and experience (only a long cycle of interviews, case studies and near-waterboarding experiences will make those clear to a McK but all of that is somehow a cost to them), but also your background because that proves a lot of things beyond reasonable doubt.

This said, the Careers page of an MBB site is there for segments of people their recruiters wouldn't cover by default, so do apply if you want, just don't put too much hope in that.

You are the type of people MBAs were invented for in terms of syllabus: bright, motivated and skilled people who had a background in engineering/marketing/even humanities, had been working in their engineering company/marketing company/mega book publisher for a while but needed to get some business education to make the next step in their careers (ideally a proper managerial position or even the board of directors if an EMBA).

These days they are used more as a CV upgrade and as a prolonged and expensive networking event, hence my very personal disdain for them (disdain which is independent of the the actual returns on investment)...

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#19 RE: Networking
31/01/2013 16:19

Mr Cool to Happy (#17)

Civil Serv.

At the end of the day it costs nothing to apply to any firm that takes you fancy. The value of these boards is that some of those firms have quirks that you can prepare for in the interview process. You're never going to get a response along the lines of "Wow, come on board brother, you're just what our staid industry needs to shake us up a bit"

A few "facts" for what my 2p is worth

... there ARE lots of mid-20 year olds with your (equivalent) experience at B-school. If you think not, then you're looking at the wrong B-schools.

...there is every chance that you could transition into management consultancy, but the dream scenario you are describing is something that 10,000 people who already work in the industry, already have MBA's and have proven ability to sell consultancy would also like to attain. That's the competition.

...why not look at firms like BAE, Detica, or recent spin off Digital Barriers - all work in the engineering/defence space and have US operations (although heavily Wash.DC focussed for very obvious reasons).

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#20 RE: Networking
01/02/2013 12:29

Civil Servitude to Mr Cool (#19)

Enguerran. Thanks very much, I hadn't heard of you. I'll be in-touch in the next week or so.

Happy. Yes, to be more specific at PA. I had dismissed the informal offer because the company is shrinking and has very poor employee reviews. Reflecting on what you've said, I think you're right, some boutiques would differentiate my experience. Generalist firms would probably prefer a team leader in BAE/Thales and I don't think I'd compete if they also had an MBA. I think I'll give it a go but with significantly lower expectations of success.

DiamondSea. If I'm honest in my original post fantasy, after couple of years, being offered a job in LA (and being made a senior associate) I would decide to go back and do an MBA at Harvard (ideally partially paid for by the company). A bit unrealistic methinks. I have an opportunity to do a part-time MBA within my job but very defence orientated … I'll definitely give that some more thought but I'm not convinced it would give me the networks I would ideally want/need. I'd love to do an MBA but they're so expensive (on my salary) and take 1 or 2 years of your life. Doing one in the US would be my dream because I think I would enjoy the process and atmosphere, rather than LBS where I would still be in London. More things to ponder.

Mr Cool. As said to Happy, think you're right about my marketability to generalist firms. In my mind I think having fought off 10,000 people to get my current job, I'd be able to do it again for what I wanted in Consultancy. I'm beginning to see it's a rather different kettle of fish and the skills/abilities I have built up don’t transfer as easily as I thought. Thanks for the recommendations, hadn't heard of digital barriers. Detica is a company who I have had dealings with in the past, they are awful. Actually being a client of some of these companies means my central problem is I have a tainted view of them (not impressed at all). I really want to make a long-term and fruitful commitment to a firm (if that makes any sense).

Thanks everyone, a lot of head scratching and more research to do.

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#21 RE: Networking
01/02/2013 13:22

Happy to Civil Servitude (#20)

I'd love to do an MBA but they're so expensive (on my salary) and take 1 or 2 years of your life.

A side comment on this - I come from a fairly specific non-traditional background and, as such, often get contacted by people with the same background to enquire about various career paths. Sometimes I advise them that, in my view, their best bet would be an MBA.

When I hear back something like your quoted text above, which is quite common, I pretty much switch off, as all it says to me is:

"I want the nice job and the big salary in the prestigious company, but I am not prepared to take any risk - financial, temporal, family or otherwise - to get there. I want to keep working and continue getting paid, and then just smoothly transition into a job in a different field with a much higher salary based on not much relevant experience at all"

Compare that with the person enrolled at HBS or wherever who can say:

"I am so desperate to get into your industry that I have quit my job, uprooted my family, moved them to another country, taken on $150k of debt with no guarantee of anything at the end, just to maximize my chances of even getting an interview with your firm"

The second shows a degree of ambition/drive/dedication that is incomparable with the first. Should you get interviews with the likes of McKinsey, the second quote above is what the people you will be competing against will be saying (overtly or covertly) in their interviews

There are multiple means of financing MBAs, making them a possibility for pretty much anyone.

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#22 RE: Networking
01/02/2013 13:34

Mr Cool to Happy (#21)

well summarised Happy


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#23 RE: Networking
01/02/2013 20:11

DiamondSea to Mr Cool (#22)

Civil Servitude, I wish I hadn't read your last reply to me specifically because it really makes you come across as somebody with TOTALLY unrealistic expectations.

Happy summarised it well. An MBA is no autowin. It is an investment, with different potential outcomes like all investments. Assuming you can only have upsides, that you don;t have to pay "anything" for it is just insane...

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