Interview with an Accidental Multilingual Webmaster

A multilingual webmaster with fourteen years of experience recommends Linux and computer science fundamentals.

What is your job title?


Would you describe what you do on a typical day?

The traditional webmaster activity that I do is to maintain the content of our company’s website, which includes front-end design, light programming on the back-end, and everything in between.

Because I have worked for the same organization for a long time, I have become involved in many facets of marketing, management, and system administration as well.

What is your ethnicity? Has it ever hurt or helped you?

When I look in the mirror, I see me, and I am stuck with it!  So I will leave the labeling to others. If it helps, I am the offspring of a Portuguese and a French Jew, and I was raised in Brazil, which in itself is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures.

Honestly, I have never analyzed whether my ethnicity has helped me or not.

What languages do you speak? How has speaking another language helped you?

My native language is Portuguese (the Brazilian flavor) and it has helped me a lot since it was either a requirement or a “desirable skill” in my last three jobs.

In addition to being fluent in English and after eleven years in South Florida and a couple trips to Argentina and Peru, I feel comfortable speaking Spanish. I also hack “Tourist French”.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that lesson happen?

I learned that there are relentless hackers trying to steal anything from you. Your data, money, traffic, reputation; you name it!  And it’s a never-ending battle.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

Kids need to be prepared for careers that don’t exist today, so a strong foundation of math, writing, and reading comprehension will always be important.

A few subjects that should be stressed in K12 are critical thinking, problem-solving, personal finance, and more hands-on activities.

Regarding IT, I am surprised and troubled that schools don’t expose kids to Open Source and Linux.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

I came upon this line of work somewhat by accident. I went to college to pursue a music degree focusing on performance and audio recording technologies.

During my college years, I witnessed the death of the “magnetic tape” and the birth and growth of non-linear digital audio editing, where the personal computer is the main tool.

After becoming deeply involved with Digital Audio, I drifted to Desktop Publishing and subsequently to the World Wide Web.

Going back, I would like to have learned more fundamentals in computer science and the systems administration arena.

On a good day, when things are going well, what’s happening and what do you like about it?

A good day has challenging yet attainable projects and opportunities to learn new tricks.  Clients and peers are not only happy but also giving good feedback.

When everything goes wrong, what’s happening and what do you dislike?

“Everything goes wrong” is the key-phrase.  Problems usually come in pairs or more. It could be a security issue or a non-functioning third-party service that you depend upon.

What is your favorite part of your job?

The “Lego Factor” and problem-solving are my favorite parts of the job.  My work often involves tinkering, building solutions, and making a process flow faster.

How stressful is your job?

The job is moderately stressful. Fortunately, experience helps one cope with it.

Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

Yes, but you need to know when to unplug.  I don’t check work via smartphone.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

Webmaster is a bit of an open-ended job title, so salary ranges will depend on what you are bringing to the table, the economy, and the competition in your market. You could search the range and encounter offers anywhere from 35k all the way to six figures. It really depends on the requirements. I have a flexible employer and short commute, which alone is worth thousands.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

There were many rewarding moments where we received positive feedback from our customers.  It’s nice to know that my work can have a significant impact on the lives of others.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

The occasional recession is usually a down moment, especially when we have to let go a team member for budgetary reasons rather than performance.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

Nowadays there are more formal ways to get an education in Computer Science, but critical thinking and ability to teach yourself are the best skills one can have. The information is out there, and it’s free!  It’s a matter of time management and focusing on the long-term.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

As in any career, make sure you fully understand what you are getting into and what it takes to succeed and to be happy.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I take some time off in the summer and in the winter.

I have more vacation than the average American. On the other hand, I also try to stay available to our team in case of an emergency.  It’s a fair trade-off.

Are there any common myths you want to dispel about what you do?

I’d like to make my neighbors aware that I can’t always fix their computers easily!

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

Taking a year-long sabbatical and driving a convertible in Europe with no set schedule or destination.

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