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.

Partying like it's 1999, redefined

In the waning days of 1999, this international company is staring down the barrel of Y2k -- and the bigwigs at HQ are taking the looming catastrophe VERY seriously.

Hey, less than 90 seconds doesn't really count!

This paper mill has just installed a new mainframe, but a pilot fish on the scene observes that something seems to be missing. The IT manager disagrees -- why would they need a UPS?

Because that's what's REALLY important, right?

It's the early 2000s, and this network consultant at a state agency has to upgrade a NetWare network. Just one catch: There's another agency's accounting package that has to work with it, too.

Heck, we're just happy it didn't burst into flames

User marches up to this IT pilot fish's desk with a piece of equipment in her hand -- and she's clearly not happy. Can this possibly end well?

In fact, it's quite a bit more than they need

This team of four network analysts is moving to a new office that's been configured just for what they need -- or at least that's what they've been told.

There's the right way, and then there's...this way

Pilot fish needs a replacement battery for his laptop, so he tries his company's new unified IT portal to order it -- which turns out to be more of an adventure than he expects.

Rats! Another infinite loop!

Transaction-processing server at a remote site fails completely -- but it's back up. Then down again. Then up again -- and it turns out there's an obvious reason for the intermittent failure.

See, THIS is what responsibility gets you

Power outage takes down the office where this IT pilot fish works, so he's sent home. But four hours later, his boss calls to say power is back on, but fish still doesn't need to come in. Just two problems with that...

At last, some good from a bureaucratic definition!

It's the 1990s, and this graphic design group wants to ditch its typewriter-era desks for some that will work well with a workstation. Trouble is, the company's Interior Design office has its own ideas.

Don't tell me you can't do it, you SAID you would!

This incident manager knows a lot about IT, but he's not allowed to fix problems -- his job is lining up the right support teams to resolve issues. But one literal-minded support tech takes him at his word.

'Other duties as assigned,' redefined

Pilot fish is applying for a job at small government agency, and there's quite a list of IT qualifications among the requirements. But it turns out he's better qualified than he knows.

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