Questions that Sharky gets a lot

Q: What's a pilot fish?

A: There are two answers to that question. One is the Mother Nature version: Pilot fish are small fish that swim just ahead of sharks. When the shark changes direction, so do the pilot fish. When you watch underwater video of it, it looks like the idea to change direction occurred simultaneously to shark and pilot fish.

Thing is, sharks go pretty much anywhere they want, eating pretty much whatever they want. They lunge and tear and snatch, but in so doing, leave plenty of smorgasbord for the nimble pilot fish.

The IT version: A pilot fish is someone who swims with the sharks of enterprise IT -- and lives to tell the tale. Just like in nature, a moment's inattention could end the pilot fish's career. That's life at the reef.

Q: Are all the Sharky stories true?

A: Yes, as best we can determine.

Q: Where do the Sharky tales come from?

A: From readers. Sharky just reads and rewrites and basks in the reflected glory of you, our readers. It is as that famous fish-friendly philosopher Spinoza said, "He that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine."

Q: How do I get one of those fabulous Sharky T-shirts?

A: Here's how it works. You send us your tale of perfidy, heroism or just plain weirdness at your IT shop. If Sharky selects it for publication, you get the shirt -- free and clear, no handling charges.

Q: Do I have to write my story in Sharky-ese?

A: No. Not at all. Just be sure to give us details. What happened, to whom, what he said, what she said, how it all worked out.

Q: I've got a really funny story, but I could get fired if my old trout of a boss found out I told you. How confidential is what I send to Sharky?

A: We don't publish names: yours, your boss's, your trout's, your company's. We try to file off the serial numbers, though there's no absolute guarantee that someone who lived through the incident won't recognize himself. Our aim is to share the outrageous, knee-slapping, milk-squirting-out-your-nose funny tales that abound in the IT world, not to get you fired. That would not be funny.

Q: You published my tale. Where's my T-shirt?

A: Hey, hey, cut us a break. You sent your tale over the Internet. If we could send your Shark shirt that way, you can bet we would.

Because most Shark Tank submissions don't include a full mailing address, we have to contact each pilot fish to get the address before sending out a T-shirt. That's done in batch mode, so it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. When things really get backed up, it can fall behind as much as a month or more.

But be assured: Sharky vows to forget no one!

Occasionally by the time your tale sees print, your e-mail address will have changed. If your e-mail address changed after you sent your contribution and you never got your shirt, let us know at We'll get right on it.

Q: How do I get each new Shark Tank tale emailed to me?

Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Q: Where are the Sharkives?

Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.

Hey, you've got 38 minutes. What's the problem?

It's 8:22 a.m. when this IT pilot fish gets a call from a user: An important report is due by 9 a.m., with major repercussions if it isn't run on time -- but there's no one around who knows how to do it.

Famous last words: 'You should be fine'

This pilot fish at a big computer manufacturer is the only field service rep in the office when a customer call comes in for a model he's never worked on -- with an SLA that demands to be fulfilled.

And by the way, welcome back!

This manufacturing company has a shiny new HR system, reports a pilot fish working there -- and it's going to take some getting used to.

Because data moves slower when the air is thinner?

This local government agency is moving to a new facility that will put users in the same building but on two different floors -- and that has planners worried about phones.

Because what could possibly go wrong?

Pilot fish is dispatched to a big, highly automated warehouse to install a new server, and everything is going fine when suddenly the lights blink and the UPS takes over. Fish's first thought: What did I do?

Need to know? Yeah, actually, we do

This company that supplies colleges with mainframe ERP software sends a pilot fish to deal with the process. But it turns out there's something the school's IT people haven't mentioned.

How to save money in IT, bright ideas edition

At this financial institution, it's OK for IT to spend money -- as long as it's somebody else's money. Case in point: A deal with an outside company to dispose of old computers and electronic office equipment.

There IS such a thing as too-fast delivery

Flashback to the late 1990s, when this delivery company is upgrading its network, switches and all. But hundreds of feet away at the other end of the warehouse, there's another kind of delivery problem.


Local government department calls IT to report that its Wi-Fi network isn't working -- and it's a little more serious than just someone having unplugged the power.

Looks like everybody learned something

One weekend this pilot fish gets an alert that multiple systems are down in the data center, despite automatic failover to UPS and generator power. How could that happen? Let's check the replay...

Well, the firewalls WEREN'T working, were they?

Consultant pilot fish is on the way to one client's office when he gets a call that the network has gone down at another client's office -- and fish is the one on the hot seat.

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