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 one of the workers. Not a honcho, not a shark.

The tricks for both kinds of pilot fish are finding a shark they can live with and staying out of range of its teeth. And to always stay alert and away from those tooth-packed jaws. 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. Leave something for Sharky to do. 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. Just reading Sharky's voluminous mail to filter out the death threats and Ponzi scheme offers is practically a full-time job. And there are only a couple of us to serve all of Sharky's needs and wants. (You think your boss is demanding? Hah!)

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 two.

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.


Latest Posts by Sharky

This IT consultant really likes his job, including the opportunity to go to conferences and training. To make the most of that, he makes a list of the conferences that will be most valuable -- and to his surprise, they're mostly approved.

April 16, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

IT consultant pilot fish is managing a big project for a utility company, and every two weeks his team holds a workshop to demo the state of the work. But when fish needs to change the start time, there's a problem.

April 15, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

One of the responsibilities this IT pilot fish has inherited is an automatic gate with key-card access that's getting pretty creaky. But management doesn't want to sink money into repairs -- after all, it's working, right?

April 14, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Company deploys new do-everything enterprise software, and two weeks before it's scheduled to go live, this analyst working on the project requests that unencrypted FTP service be turned on. Who could object to that?

April 11, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

User calls this support pilot fish to report that his monitor is "broken" -- no other details. That's easy to fix, but it may not be the real problem.

April 10, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Sysadmin pilot fish has been with this company since the beginning, but ever since his boss hired another sysadmin to -- in his words -- "give you some help," it hasn't exactly worked out.

April 09, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Tech calls this network pilot fish to tell him that he has now rebooted a particular device on the network. Fish's response: I don't think so.

April 08, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Company is opening a new office and this pilot fish gets the nod to fly down in a few weeks to set up the network and phones. But what the new office's manager has to say is not what fish wants to hear.

April 07, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

This state transportation department uses computer science students from a local university as programming interns, and everyone is happy with the arrangement -- until one intern learns how to bring down the mainframe.

April 04, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

This group of hospitals has migrated to a cloud network provider to connect its sites, but after several months this pilot fish realizes that some larger file transfers are taking way longer than they should.

April 03, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
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