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Decoding Remote Work: Mark Templeton on the Virtual Workspace
Episode 2215th June 2021 • Decoding Digital • AppDirect
00:00:00 00:35:36

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While the technology enabling remote work has seen leaps and bounds in the last year, the foundations have been in place for far longer. In a time where the virtual workspace is more necessary than ever before, how much do we really understand it? In this episode, Mark Templeton shares his experience as a visionary in the virtualization space, insights on apps and the cloud’s development, and why remote work will continue to evolve.

Press play to hear Mark Templeton’s thoughts on…

Figuring Out the Future of Work 

“Whether it was collaboration, software, or security or management or networking, video, different types of technologies, like voice to text, text to voice—we just imagined all the pieces that would need to be possible to enable work from anywhere.”

The Impact of Remote Work on People

“We talk a lot about technology, but technology is only as good as the people that adopt it. So as the pioneer behind the virtual workspace, how important do you think in-person collaboration is or human to human contact? Because taking human interaction away from even a work environment leaves a lot of questions about how you build a culture, how you share common values."

Returning to the Office

“What we found is that people overwhelmingly want to have the flexibility to work in a hybrid environment where they can choose what they want when they want. However, we've seen that productivity data and culture show that it's more effective if people are either altogether or all remote.”

Transcripts

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We decided that work was not a

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place. If work is not a place

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and it's something that you need

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to be able to conduct from

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anywhere, then how do we define

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that? We imagined all the pieces

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that would need to be possible

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to enable work from anywhere.

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That's Mark Templeton, former

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President and CEO of Citrix

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Systems, an early pioneer in

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virtualization technology. Over

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20 years, Mark shaped the

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strategy, growth and execution

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at the company and helped grow

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Citrix from a young public

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company with only one product

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into a global software leader

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with annual revenues of more

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than three billion, and more

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than 100 million users worldwide.

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Mark is a visionary. Early on at

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Citrix, he saw how technology

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would change the way people work.

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Long before anyone coined the

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term "the future of work," he

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championed a vision for a

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software-defined virtual

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workplace that could make it

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possible for people to work from

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anywhere with an Internet

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connection. Today, Mark speaks

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widely about entrepreneurship

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and the future of work. In this

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episode, he shares insights from

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more than two decades in the

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technology sector, including how

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apps and the cloud have evolved.

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How to communicate a vision for

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digital change and execute it,

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and how the world of remote work

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will continue to evolve. This is

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Daniel Saks, co-CEO of AppDirect,

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and it's time to decode the

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future of the virtual workspace.

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Welcome to "Decoding Digital," a

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podcast for innovators looking

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to thrive in the digital economy.

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I'm your host, Daniel Saks, and

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I'll sit down with other

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founders, CEOs and changemakers

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to decode the trends that are

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transforming the way we work.

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Let's decode. Welcome, Mark.

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Thank you, Daniel. It's a joy to

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be with you here.

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Always fun to discuss. You are

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known as the person and the

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seminal visionary behind the

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concept of the virtual desktop

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and virtual workspace. At Citrix,

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you helped define a movement of

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a software-defined workspace.

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Today, I'm thrilled to decode

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that topic with you. If we can

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take our listeners past, present

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and future of the concept of the

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virtual workspace would love to

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get your original thoughts on

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what a virtual workspace would

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look like where we are today and

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where we're going.

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I'm not going to try to answer

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that in the single answer. I'd

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say, the roots of all of this

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were consistent with the roots

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of Citrix. Citrix began its

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life with the idea of remote

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access. It was when apps were

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fat, and pipes were thin,

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everything was dial-up. Working

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remotely was very difficult. You

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only worked remotely when you

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had to. Those that had to were

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people who travelled or sales

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people who didn't work in the

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office on a regular basis. The

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original technologies and ideas

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that launched Citrix were around

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enabling remote access. As time

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went on, the pipes got fatter.

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They always had latency issues.

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They were never quite fat enough.

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They got better all the time

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from dial-up to ISDN, to the

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Internet and so forth. Apps got

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more efficient and thin. That

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took a long time, from two-tier

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client server to three-tier

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client server to web apps, and

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so forth. Along the way, the

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whole idea of enabling remote

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offices, enabling people to work

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remotely, to be closer to their

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customers became more and more

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important for businesses to grow.

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We at Citrix were growing quite

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rapidly. I remember in the late '

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90s, we went public in 1995, we

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were about 15 million in revenue.

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Then the next year was 45

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million, the next year 125

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million, the next year 250

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million, the next year 400

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million. We broke through 400

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and 500 million, or so, and was

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mostly to enable remote

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access. We were doing a fair

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amount of business also

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delivering Windows desktops to

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non-Windows devices. Back in

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those days, you had thin clients,

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you had Unix workstations that

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were still very popular,

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Macintosh of course. We at

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Citrix had a challenge, it's

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like, "OK, we're the kings of

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promote access. What do we do

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for an Act Two?" That's when a

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lot of work went into reaching

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into our imaginations, talking

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to customers, talking to our

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partners, getting lots and lots

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of points of view. That then led

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us to imagine making the

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workplace completely virtual.

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When we asked ourselves that

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question, it led us to a lot of

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other adjacent capabilities.

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Remote access being one of them,

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but remote access to not only to

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applications, but to documents,

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to people, simultaneous slow

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access, so collaboration. It led

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to all of those ideas. It led to

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deep thinking about security

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issues when you had

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collaboration across companies

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and across business units and so

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forth. All of that then led us

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to make a video, because we

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couldn't describe it in any

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other way. We made a video

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called the Virtual Workplace,

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and we launched it in November

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of 2001 at our customer

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conference that we, in those

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days, called iForum. It was our

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best shot at imagining what a

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fully virtual workplace would be,

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and what its value would be.

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That's the key thing, Daniel,

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that we were focused on, and

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that is, what problems does this

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solve for customers and

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therefore would cause them to

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want to buy it and buy into our

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vision?

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The vision of remote access and

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then the idea of the virtual

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workspace was very novel at the

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time. You've used words like

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imagination and deep thinking to

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come up with something that was

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a meaningful transformation.

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Speak to your philosophy on the

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importance of imagination and

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deep work to truly innovate work

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transformational endeavors.

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It's a great question.

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First of all, imagination roots

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itself in each person's child.

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Some of us are better at being

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comfortable with our child

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within us, and some of us are

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less comfortable with it. A

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child-like mind also relates

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to being a student and being

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curious and being interested in

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the unknown. That's something

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that, I don't know, it's in my

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DNA I suppose, that I studied

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product design when I went to

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university. It was all about the

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creative process and finding

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those ideas within your child

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self. If you think about it,

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children, they don't know what

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they don't know, and they

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imagine the impossible because

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they don't know what's

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impossible. That's where these

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ideas root themselves. A lot of

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people in tech are gifted with

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this capability, and why we have

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so much invention and so much

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trial and error, because that's

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another characteristic of being

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comfortable with your child that, "

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If I'm wrong, how bad is that?

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That's not the worst thing in

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the world. If I'm wrong, I'll

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have learned something." What's

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Edison's quote that was so

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fantastic? It took him 65,

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000 tries to figure

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out what one-way would work, or

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something like that.

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Right, yeah.

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That's a very child-centered

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thinking and where imagination

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roots itself. It also roots

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itself in what I call the analog

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brain, which is right here, your

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heart. It's the adult part of

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your persona, it's more digital.

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It's more about what do I need.

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It's calculating. It's rational.

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The analog part of your brain,

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the limbic part of your brain,

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is much more about what you want,

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what you desire. Much more of

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what you'd hear from a child.

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Being comfortable with both of

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those things and mediating them

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is where the source of

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imagination is, and where

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invention and disruptive

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invention comes from.

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I know you're a fan of Dr. Seuss,

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as am I.

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Are there other inspirations you

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have to tap into your child self?

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I've never been asked that

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question before. It's probably

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the number one inspiration, in

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that sense has been my children.

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My children have always been an

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inspiration for me. They've

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always loved all the gadgets

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that I would bring home. The

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interesting thing about it is,

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I'd bring something home. I'd

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explain to them how it worked.

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They had no interest in how it

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worked. They only wanted to know

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what it could do. That's the

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difference between a child's

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mind. It's like, "What can it do?

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What can it do? How can you make

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me better? Is it fun? Does it

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have potential energy?" etc.

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versus how it actually worked.

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I'd say, my children were

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definitely an inspiration.

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Another big inspiration in that

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regard in my life was my mom,

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who's an artist. She always

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believed that the most powerful

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thing you could ever be was

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yourself. The worst thing you

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could ever say to my mom was, "I

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wanted to do something because

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someone else was doing it." She

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never wanted me, or any of my

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brothers and sisters to be

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followers. It's like, "No, I

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want to know what you want. I

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want to know what's on your mind."

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She was very much an artist, and

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very much in her child. Even at

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89 years old, she's still that

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way, I'd say.

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It's fantastic. On Decoding

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Digital, we speak to digital

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transformation stories, and

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those who bring new products to

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market. The invention or the

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vision of this virtual workspace

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laid the groundwork for most of

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the disruptive innovation that

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exists today, whether it's in

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the software as a service world,

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the platform as a service world.

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Maybe, taking this example of

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imagination and childlike

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thinking, take us to the moment

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where you came up with a concept

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of saying, "We're going to go

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from remote access to creating a

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virtual desktop or workspace."

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I wish I could tell you that it

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was a childlike imagination

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process. The fact of the matter

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is, when we looked forward, and

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as a public company serving a

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lot of customers, we had a lot

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of business partners, a lot of

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employees and out of great

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respect for all of them, our

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role is to look into the future,

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and have a future, and

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chart a future. That was one of

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our core jobs for our customers

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and partners. We felt like, "Gee,

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we're not doing our job if we

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don't come up with an Act Two."

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This was out of necessity, to be

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honest. We knew we had to

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challenge ourselves to create

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headroom, and a future for the

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company. As I said earlier, we

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talk to a lot of people. In the

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end it got down to being a very

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small group getting together on

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a whiteboard and writing down

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what our ideas and beliefs were.

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One of those was a saying that

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been repeated often now for a

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lot of years that we decided

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that work was not a place. If

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work is not a place, and it's

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something that you need to be

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able to conduct from anywhere,

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then, how do we define that?

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Then, we drew Venn diagrams and

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put different types of software,

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whether it was collaboration

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software, or security, or

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management, or networking, video,

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different types of technologies

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like voice-to-text, text-to-

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voice. We just imagined all the

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pieces that would need to be

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possible to enable work from

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anywhere. We were doing all of

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that, because we knew we had to

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do some new things in order to

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continue to grow and add value

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for our customers. That was the

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source of it. Obviously, it did

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require imagination, as well.

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Interestingly enough, a couple

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of us on the Citrix executive

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team had been Apple dealers in

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part of our prior career. I had

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been an Apple dealer. I had a

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dealership in Williamsburg,

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Virginia. Dave Jones, who was

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also on the team, had an Apple

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dealer in Cape Town, South

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Africa. I looked over to Dave,

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and I said, "Hey, Dave, do you

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remember Apple's knowledge

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navigator video?" He yells, "

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Yeah, man, wasn't that great?" I

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said, "Yeah. We need to create

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our version of the knowledge

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navigator. Take all these ideas,

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and package them that way, so we

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could share them." That's what

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led to the video. That's what

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led to the idea that work is not

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a place. That is what led to the

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whole notion of a virtual

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workplace. All the enablers of

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that, which turned out to be

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software, mostly all software,

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obviously supported by the right

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hardware. Then, we felt that

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customers were very locked in

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to various applications,

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networks, devices, etc. When we

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made the video, it expressed our

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point of view that customers

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shouldn't be locked into any

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particular device, or network,

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or place to work, etc. Device

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independence was an important

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idea on the whiteboard, as well

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as new devices like, now we have

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in the video there's a device

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that's a lot like a Microsoft

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Surface Duo like this, except,

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instead of having screens just

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on the inside, it had one more

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screen on the outside that gave

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you contextual information that

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would then lead you inside the

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device. There was a lot of

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imagination. We had to let it

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loose, so that we could find

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whitespace to grow into.

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How has your definition of

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virtual workplace evolved over

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the years?

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The way it's evolved is, I would

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say, from being very much an

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outcome and capability-based

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thing driven by technology to

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understanding that there are

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tremendous cultural and human

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issues to a workplace that's

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fully virtual. By the way, I

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don't pretend to understand it

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at this point. We're all in the

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midst of a giant beta test of

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that. There'll be plenty of

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research both by professionals

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and by companies trying to

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figure out, do we want people to

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go back to the office? Do we not

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want people to go back to the

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office? Do we want them back

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part of the time? If so, why?

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My understanding, or my thinking

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on it is evolving along with the

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pandemic, with an understanding

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that there are a tremendous

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number of cultural, human and

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even mental wellness aspects to

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the workplace and the notion of

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making it virtual.

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We talk a lot about technology,

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but technology is only as good

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as the people that adopt it. You

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seem to me as a very human

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leader. As a pioneer behind the

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virtual workspace and the

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concept of remote access, how

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important do you think in-person

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collaboration is or human-to-

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human contact?

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It's extremely important. The

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question is, does it lead to

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breakthroughs that you wouldn't

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otherwise get, because taking

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human interaction away from even

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a work environment leaves a lot

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of question about how you build

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a culture, how you share common

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values, etc. By the way, these

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are all areas for invention and

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innovation that we're going to

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see explode over the next few

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years. We see what has been

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done with video platforms of all

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types. Obviously, Zoom has got

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an amazing response from the

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world at large. There'll be lots

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of invention that'll fill in

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some of these gaps, but in the

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end, that human-to-human contact

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and presence is essential to

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long lasting deeper types of

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relationships. On the other

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hand, I'm not sure that virtual

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organizations and experiences

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prevent invention and innovation.

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From a mental wellness

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perspective, it's important.

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There may be a little evidence

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of that if you look at history,

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there are people who work in

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remote offices, either by

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themselves or in a very small

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group, and they hate it. They

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learned to hate it, and it's

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because they themselves have a

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craving for more interaction.

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Then, there are those who

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absolutely love it and wouldn't

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work in an office environment if

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they had to. Those are facts

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about people, and that says

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something to me. It says that

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some people are cut out, either

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because of their personalities,

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what they do in terms of their

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skill sets, etc., where they

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like the solitude and what they

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get from the solitude. Then

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there are other people who, and

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I'll put myself in that category,

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I'm energized by others. I need

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others to provide energy to me.

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When I'm with others, that's

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where I'm most creative and most

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imaginative, and I'm enjoying

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myself most.

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We've looked at a lot of

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productivity data of all remote

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work versus all in-person

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collaboration. Then we've also

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done a lot of surveying of our

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teams and our merchants to see

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if they would rather worked in

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person or remote. What we found

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is that people overwhelmingly

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want to have the flexibility to

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work in a hybrid environment

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where they can choose what they

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want, when they want. However,

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we've seen that productivity

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data and culture show that it's

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more effective if people are

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either all together or all

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remote, so there could be an

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even playing field for people to

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collaborate. Do you have a

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perspective on how that evolves?

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Yeah, I do. My perspective is,

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most people want the world to be

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binary. It's a zero or a one.

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The fact of the matter, most of

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the world is in between. It's

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not black or white, it's gray.

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People generally want binary

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answers to this question. It's a

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black or a white, a zero or a

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one. The answer here happens to

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be gray, because this depends

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upon the business you're talking

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about, the work that people are

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doing, the generational aspects

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of the workforce. I'm a baby

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boomer. My children are

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millennials. Then you have the X

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and the Y Gen, and so forth.

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It's a complicated question to

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have a singular answer. What's

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likely is that younger

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generations are much more

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comfortable because they were

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born digital, and much more

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comfortable with the digital

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experience and in some ways

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prefer it and are very

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productive in it. The opposite

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is true for older guys like me.

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I learned digital. I wasn't born

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digital. I was part of the

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digital revolution, which has

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been an amazing personal journey.

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I don't think there's an answer

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to that question that can be

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expressed in a definitive way.

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This is where each company is

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going to have to examine the

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workforce itself, the culture of

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the company, the work that

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people are doing, and then how

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they want to reinforce their

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culture and make sure that they

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put a set of policies together

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that make all of that work for

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them as a business. Peak

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productivity, I'm not sure

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that's the goal. You can't run

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a car at its peak power output

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for a long time. You can for

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some period of time. Peak

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productivity is often enabled

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by time where there's solitude,

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and time when there's to reflect,

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and time to learn from others

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and listen, and some of those

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other activities that are harder

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to do in an office environment

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where people feel like they're

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under a microscope.

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At AppDirect, our mission is to

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make technology universally

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accessible so anyone can thrive

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in the digital economy. The

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concept of universal technology

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came from universal healthcare

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in Canada where I'm from, or

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other countries, where everyone

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has the right to have this

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access. In the consumer world,

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we've made a lot of progress

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where probably a few billion

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people now are connected, have

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access. However, in the business

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world, we're far from

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democratizing technology. There

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is huge inequalities between the

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companies that can afford masses

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of IT and none. Software-as-a-

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Service was a great start to

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offer a subscription-based model

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where more businesses can access

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these tools at a lower cost, but

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I still think we're at the

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beginning of that journey. Can

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you comment on how long you

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think it will take for these

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technologies to be democratized

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so an individual can have access

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to tools to make them thrive?

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When you were talking about the

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AppDirect mission and point of

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view, I couldn't help, but think

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of, at Citrix we invented a

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protocol called ICA. Originally

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it stood for, you know what, I

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can't remember because as CEO, I

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changed the meaning of it to

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Independent Computing

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Architecture. When we talked

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about our mission as a company,

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we said it also stood for

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information citizenship for all.

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It was because the receiver

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could run on the crappiest

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little screen that you could

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find anywhere in the world, and

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we felt that that architecture,

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that approach would be the

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method to democratize computing.

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Frankly, someone who's listening

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to this will say, "Yeah, it's

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like going back to the mainframe."

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Because right now, if you take

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the aggregate total of several

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hundred nodes of the hyper-scale

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clouds with the network that

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connects them together, we have

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something called the worldwide

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computer. All you need is a

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Chromebook or something that

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runs a browser, and you can

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access most of the world's

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knowledge. In fact, you can

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access most of the world's

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applications, if not all of the

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world's applications. We have

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the means at this point. The

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question is now how does that

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play out. Obviously, it's got a

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lot to do with economics. There

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are a number of initiatives that

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have been tried over the years

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to change the economics of a

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client-side device. We, at

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Citrix, participated in many of

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those initiatives because of our

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belief in information

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citizenship for all. Probably

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the answer is that people in the

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world that can't yet afford it,

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those economies have to improve

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enough to where the devices will

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be within the reach of people to

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then democratize computing. P.S.

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if we zoom out, my point of view

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is that today, a lot of people

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will use the term Third World

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versus First World or Western

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versus developing. In most

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cases, what you're referring to

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as the Western World is under

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500 years old in the sense of

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being the dominant GDP in the

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world. What we're referring to

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as the developing world were

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historically the world's largest

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economies. They're trying to re-

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emerge because the so-called

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Western World we've been living

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so far above average for so long,

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we're being pulled down to the

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mean, while the world that is re-

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emerging, they're being pulled

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up to the mean. Think of the

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economies around the world where

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people still feel blessed to

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have a form of transportation,

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to have a roof over their head,

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to educate their children, to

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eat three meals a day, or even

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two meals a day. We have such an

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under appreciation for that in

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the US, and in most so-called

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Western economies. That's part

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of the struggle. Part of the

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struggle that's going on is

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we're tending more toward the

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mean, and going in fits and

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starts. Other economies are

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ascending and enabling citizens

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to have some of the fundamental

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things that humans need. If you

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were sitting on Mars with a

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telescope, that's probably what

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you'd be observing, along with

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other things.

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It's a fascinating observation.

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What's emerging today, to your

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point, is this digital divide,

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where you have a digital world

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versus an analogue world. Those

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that have access to the tools,

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the information, to the capital,

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in order to leverage technology,

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to increase GDP and to be able

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to make for themselves. In order

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to create more equity, there

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probably needs to be more effort

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to providing that access.

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I'm a huge believer in Darwin,

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in the sense that humans have a

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capacity to achieve. They're so

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resilient in spite of crazy

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obstacles. I had fun for a

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little over a year running a

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cloud company called Digital

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Ocean. We had 12 data centers

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around the world. Two thirds of

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our business was outside the US,

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Daniel. If you looked at the

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data we had about our developers

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and our customers, over 60

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percent of them were self-taught.

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They taught themselves to code.

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They were in India, and Brazil,

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and China, and throughout Asia,

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and Eastern Europe. They would

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tell us the stories about their

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lives. We wanted to know. We

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wanted to know them. They would

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talk about going to school, and

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going home, and mom and dad.

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They wanted to know, what did

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they study in science and in

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math, and technology that day.

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It was a hugely important topic.

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Whatever assets they had,

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probably not the kind of laptop

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that you and I are sitting in

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front of. They were focused on a

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STEM type education as a high

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priority. They are the next

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generation of digital

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entrepreneurs. We forecast that

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in 2025, there'll be 100 million

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people that could code whether

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at most self-taught, and using

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cloud services to invent digital

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businesses. I'll add my more

Speaker:

editorial comment. These are

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countries that either missed the

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Industrial Revolution, or were

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victims of the Industrial

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Revolution. My editorial is,

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somebody there's thinking, "OK,

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we missed that. We were a victim

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of the Industrial Revolution.

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We're not going to miss the

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digital revolution."

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Fascinating perspective. Mark,

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thank you so much for joining me.

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I'm so excited that we've

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covered a range of topics. As a

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closing bit of wisdom, what

Speaker:

piece of advice would you have

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for listeners today who are

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looking to transform themselves

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and their businesses for the

Speaker:

benefit of tomorrow?

Speaker:

I'd say the one bit of advice

Speaker:

would be, if you see a

Speaker:

problem, I want you to get up

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from wherever you're sitting and

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run to the bathroom. The reason

Speaker:

I want you to run to the

Speaker:

bathroom is because there's a

Speaker:

mirror. I want you to look in

Speaker:

that mirror with the utmost of

Speaker:

honesty, I'd say brutal honesty,

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and decide whether you are the

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problem, or you're part of the

Speaker:

solution. The reason I'm giving

Speaker:

that advice is I find that a lot

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of people are unwilling to

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consider themselves to be the

Speaker:

problem and are not good at

Speaker:

introspection. Introspection and

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people who are deeply

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introspective end up not only

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knowing themselves best, they're

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able to collaborate and find

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people that make them better.

Speaker:

They know what pieces they're

Speaker:

missing, and what pieces to add

Speaker:

to themselves.

Speaker:

It's so powerful. Mark, I want

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to thank you again. You've been

Speaker:

an incredible leader and a great

Speaker:

mentor to me. Those words of

Speaker:

wisdom are so powerful. Thanks

Speaker:

again for joining us on the

Speaker:

podcast and hope to catch up

Speaker:

again soon.

Speaker:

Likewise, Daniel. This has been

Speaker:

so much fun. I want to thank you

Speaker:

for having me as your guest. I

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look forward to staying in touch.

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I love what you're doing at

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AppDirect.

Speaker:

On the next episode of Decoding

Speaker:

Digital.

Speaker:

There's always this fear within

Speaker:

organizations of not hiring IBM,

Speaker:

of not going to the blue chip

Speaker:

that is already available and

Speaker:

existent, and betting on a

Speaker:

player that may not be around.

Speaker:

A couple of months or years from

Speaker:

now, you'll need that backing

Speaker:

that Halo from the leadership of

Speaker:

the sea level to say, "You know

Speaker:

what, we want you to do that

Speaker:

because that's kind of what

Speaker:

change will look like for us.

Speaker:

That's what's going to make us

Speaker:

competitive five years from now."

Speaker:

Founding partner of La Famiglia,

Speaker:

Jeannette zu Furstenberg.

Speaker:

Thanks for listening to "

Speaker:

Decoding Digital." Make sure you

Speaker:

never miss an episode by

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subscribing to the show in your

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favorite podcast player. To

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learn more, visit

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decodingdigital.com. Until next