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.

And she didn't get mad when you touched them?

Help desk gets a call from a panicky remote user who says her task bar is gone and she can't launch any of her programs to work -- and none of the troubleshooting the techs try over the phone seems to help.

There's book-smart and then there's phone-smart

This IT pilot fish and his boss are working on a project to replace the aging administrative systems for a state university system -- but one day the university's president needs their project room for a meeting.

Must just be a lucky coincidence...for somebody

This organization has several different divisions, so competition for IT resources is unavoidable. The clear solution: a Resource Office to decide which division's projects get top priority. How could that go wrong?

Let's take this one step at a time...

Manager asks for help dealing with the extension of one of his workers who's, well, no longer one of his workers. Fortunately, there are instructions for that -- but they don't seem to be enough.

Is it the appendix? The spleen? The intestine?

Nurse calls this hospital's IT help desk at 2 a.m. about problems she's having with patient orders -- and she's way too busy to be more specific.

Well, it was spam-ish, right?

This company's corporate email is managed by a third-party provider that detects and quarantines spam and malware-laden messages -- but something isn't quite right.

And you thought IT governance slows things down...

This big manufacturing plant uses electric motors the size of small houses -- along with a mountain of work rules that this IT pilot fish gets to see in action when one of them needs a controller board replaced.

Want to sue over this? We know some lawyers...

Officially designated 'expert' IT person joins the staff at this law firm, and promptly sends a group email to more than 1,500 clients -- all of them listed on the cc: line.

Now we know what they're NOT paid the big bucks for

It's lunchtime, and this IT pilot fish is the one on call when word of a high-level tech crisis comes in: The teleconferencing equipment in the executive conference room isn't working.

Because parts is parts, right?

Flashback to the late 1990s, when this big aerospace/defense contractor acquires a competitor. But as soon as they're both on the same manufacturing system, the Bill of Materials application goes off the rails.

Run a backup and check error logs, then we'll talk

This steel rolling mill is finally going digital by installing dumb terminals to direct how ingots are to be rolled out, instead of announcing it over the PA system -- and that sounds like a career opportunity to somebody.

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