Questions that Sharky gets a lot
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.
A: Yes, as best we can determine.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll get right on it.
Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.
Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.
At the manufacturing company where this pilot fish works, word comes down from the corporate IT communications department: Every plant needs to add a DSL connection to serve as a backup for its T1 or T3 line.
It's the 1980s, and this university instructor marches up to the computer center's help desk with a student in tow. The first words out of her mouth: "The computer doesn’t like this student."
CIO informs this sysadmin that a new remote office is slated to open in less than two months -- which is news to the sysadmin, who knows it will take 90 days to get the office connected to the corporate network.
These two software developers are constantly having trouble with their middleware configuration -- and this pilot fish is having trouble figuring out what planet they're from.
Flashback to the days before Y2k, when this systems engineer pilot fish is sent to a customer site -- and he can't come back until he's solved the problem there.
It's the 1990s, and this pilot fish is the IT director for an Internet service provider that gets desktop PCs from a local mom-and-pop business that provides first-rate service. Everybody's happy -- until a new Finance guy arrives.
The small computer repair shop run by this pilot fish is open for a few hours each Saturday -- complete with a sign on the front door with business hours and an electric Open sign. But is that enough?
It's 9 a.m. when a pilot fish at this manufacturing company gets the bad news: The switching for the network has crashed hard, and that means all the company's plants are about to go down.
At 10:45 a.m., pilot fish gets an email query from a user: Is there a reason I am not getting emails on my iPhone? And it doesn't appear it is syncing with my laptop. But fish has no idea what the problem is -- or time to deal with it.
Pilot fish has just been working at his first IT job for a couple months when he gets the call: It's his turn to provide tech support for a quarterly meeting of every executive in the company -- and he's praying that nothing goes wrong.