See, they'd have listened to you as a consultant

This pilot fish has spent his career as an executive, much of it at growing IT companies, so he seems like the perfect guy to help out a very large IT vendor that's struggling to figure out Web 2.0 in the years just after Y2k.

"After I had completed two IPOs and served 15 years as an executive at a Unix vendor, I was recruited by this iconic IT company to help them with their Internet and web strategy," fish says.

"The offer was as a consultant, but they made me an employee working out of my home to beat their 'no more consultants' mandate."

And fish soon gets his first big surprise: There's a painfully large lack of awareness at this industry giant about what's going on in the emerging Internet world.

In short order, he becomes the guy who tries to speak reality to other executives who are more interested in their status meetings and spreadsheets and not getting fired than what their company needs to do to stay relevant.

That makes him a hero to some fellow execs and a pain to others -- and the ones who consider him a hero ask him to speak up at a high-level executive meeting about the status of the company, and in particular to how the vendor can come to grips with Web 2.0 and what it means.

It seems like a good plan. But the senior exec running big meeting -- who's one step down from the CEO -- makes it a point to condescending explain to fish that real companies take their strategic guidance from professional organizations like major analyst firms, not people who've merely worked for startups and upstarts.

"Later, my manager told me that the fact I used different font sizes on my PowerPoints was also a source of annoyance," sighs fish.

"A few days passed and I got a call at home from an analyst who I knew from my days at that upstart Unix vendor. It seems the analyst's firm had just gotten a contract from my company to perform a study on this Web 2.0 phenomena, and the analyst wanted to interview me as a source because he considered me one of the most knowledgeable people in the field.

"So I was getting interviewed by an analyst so that they could package it into a report for my company because they would not believe an employee."

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