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.

See, we CAN get along after all!

IT pilot fish is asked to take over a small project that hasn't made any progress in two years in the hands of a guy who just can't seem to find time for it -- and he doesn't have time to turn over his work to fish, either.

Really, he's just trying to spread the fun around

IT consultant pilot fish is at a client site where the business has just finished a move -- with the usual slightly chaotic aftermath -- when another building tenant stops in to announce he's getting the client's old digs.

Not the kind of redundancy we really needed here

It's a few decades back, and this technical rep pilot fish is awakened by his beeper to learn that a customer -- a college campus -- is completely without phones or data communications, and no one is sure why.

After all, longer IS stronger

IT support specialist pilot fish gives all temps and new hires the same password, which they change after their first successful login. So why isn't this newbie successful?

Yes, these days even exit interviews require prep

Pilot fish who has spent the last couple decades as IT director at a community college retires, and that means it's time for a string of exit interviews -- including one that leaves him speechless.

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

This pilot fish has spent much of his career as an executive at growing IT companies, so he seems like the perfect guy to help out an iconic IT vendor that's struggling to figure out Web 2.0 -- or maybe not.

Since that's the only thing that goes wrong...

It's around Y2k, and it seems like everyone is getting Palm PDAs for their professional employees, including the accounting group that this IT pilot fish supports -- even though he's never used one.

OK, that WOULD be a reason to call during vacation

It's the mid-1990s, and this pilot fish is a sysadmin at a local college with a dedicated phone line that's just used for testing modems. And that setup works fine -- at least until fish goes on vacation.

What you measure is what you get

Second-level IT support tech needs to get a failed video card replaced, so he does the logical thing: He asks the IT service desk to open a problem ticket and call the vendor. What could be wrong with that plan?

The fault, dear Brutus, is in defaults

Programmer/analyst is the go-to guy for smartphone hotspot problems for this company's field sales force, so he gets the call when one sales rep's iPhone starts showing intermittent hotspot issues.

Maybe think of it as 'Charlotte's Wiring Run'?

Consultant pilot fish picks up a new client, and when the client complains that one of the network drops has stopped working, fish finds out just how many corners his predecessor has cut.

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