Shark Tank: For Auld Lang Syne

BOSTON (06/05/2000) - FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE Manufacturing company cans its CEO. Six months later, he lands a job elsewhere and calls our pilot fish, a system administrator at the manufacturer. "I check my voice mail," the fish says, "to hear our ex-CEO say: ‘Hey, I tried dialing into the network over the weekend, but every time it wouldn't let me in. Can you give me a call and let me know when you have it fixed?'"WORKING IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS, this developer pilot fish's machine suddenly stops echoing keystrokes; the server he's connected to "appears to have dropped dead." He checks the computer room and finds a newly hired security guard peering into the electrical panel box and switching off circuit breakers. "I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was trying to turn off the lights," says the fish. "For his future reference, I pointed him to the light switch."

GET THE MESSAGE? This help desk pilot fish takes a call from a company honcho and dispatches a trouble ticket and a tech pronto. Hours later, the honcho calls our fish back: "Where's the tech you promised ASAP?" The fish tracks down the tech, who explains that he went to the user's office, found it empty and e-mailed him to call when he returned. Growls the fish, "The user's problem - clearly stated in the trouble ticket - was that his e-mail wasn't working."

TWO YEARS of cleaning up a worse-than-typical mess gets this one-man-IT-shop pilot fish his reward: a pink slip, because, the boss says, "computers don't need programmers or operators; they can run themselves." The fish resists an urge to booby-trap the systems, but it doesn't really matter. After six months of "running themselves," he hears, the systems are "so far out of sync with everything that they're totally useless" - and the company has gone back to manual bookkeeping.

DON'T BLINK On May 31, this pilot fish's company buys Web application server licenses. Server vendor e-mails license keys and info on support options. "One line caught my eye," says the fish. "‘You will receive free upgrades of this commercial license until June 1. You can also continue to use the server after this date.'"Tell Sharky your tale. If it prints, you get a sharp Shark shirt: And get more every day at

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