How this intern got promoted to Head of Customer Success in 365 days with a 250% salary increase
Danie Ferrusi, head of customer success at Stakester, started out as an intern.
- Danie Ferrusi took an eight-week internship with esports startup Stakester after being furloughed.
- A year later, she was promoted to head of customer success.
- She said she climbed so quickly by making herself and her contributions as valuable as possible.
Danie Ferrusi, a 33-year-old from Copake, New York, lost her job when the pandemic hit, so she decided to take an eight-week internship with esports startup Stakester, an app that gives gamers a platform to place cash bets on their own gameplay while looking for other work.
“I love UX and video games, which is the best version of escapism on Earth, especially during a pandemic,” Ferrusi told Insider. “I figured it would be fun, and at the end of eight weeks, work would be up and running again.”
10 days into the internship, she said, the company asked her to stay on as a full-time employee. About one year later, Ferrusi was promoted to head of customer success at the company.
Here’s how she made the leap.
Landing the internship and turning it into a full-time role
Ferrusi anticipated a very different career trajectory. In March 2020, she worked the help desk at a school and as a UX auditor – someone who takes the user experience process and applies it to ideas, products, services, businesses, etc. – for various clients, including startups, nonprofits, and schools, after giving up a decade-long career as a senior IT manager at a boarding school in upstate New York called Maplebrook School. The pivot to UX was already scary, as working in IT came with stability and a steady income, but she wanted to follow her passion for UX, even if it meant piecing together clients.
Things were running smoothly until COVID-19 forced business to slow, Ferrusi lost two auditing clients, and the school where she was working closed. To kill time, she said she played a lot of video games while searching for other opportunities. That’s when the eight-week internship posting for Stakester popped up on AngelList. She applied, got the internship, and started working in April 2020.
“[The CEO] came to me and asked what I was doing after the internship,” Ferrusi said. “I told him I was going to go back to my job at Maplebrook School and running the side hustle of being a UX auditor when the doors open again, but they asked if I would stay with them even though they knew I would stay based in America and they’re in the UK. I was trying to play it cool when they made the offer, but in my head, I was like, I need to grab this.”
Ferrusi spent the next several months in her new role testing ideas and synthesizing data. She became skilled at getting feedback from customers, giving it back to the product team, and sharing her insights with the CEO to make the app better. She ran many competitor analyses and created reports for stakeholders, all of which were extra work on top of her regular responsibilities. She would draft reports for each competitor (with about 20 competitors in the field). In doing so, she convinced the whole company to integrate their work onto a new platform.
“Those types of insights were really valuable to the company,” Ferrusi said. “I became the mouthpiece of the customer.”
Reaching the next level in 12 months
Though content in her new full-time role, the video game lover didn’t expect the next offer she received from the CEO.
“Less than a year later, the CEO explained that they were growing and needed someone to take ownership of the customer experience,” Ferrusi said. “And they wanted me to be head of customer success.”
She was nervous about giving up her new UX reigns to take on an executive-level role, but she knew it was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. “Comfort is good, but growth is a hundred times better,” she said.
She took the offer and received a 250% pay increase. “Because I pivoted career paths, I was hoping within a year or two I’d get back to my old salary, which I thought was an ambitious pipe dream – not necessarily making more than that,” Ferrusi said. “I never had to ask for a raise. It was freely given, based on my performance and being an asset to the company.”
“Imagine that: hitting ‘reset’ on your career and exceeding your salary expectations within three years. Lucky me!” she added.
While Ferrusi has what seems like a rare success story, she promises that focusing on a few simple things at an internship can make anyone stand out. “Make yourself the most valuable person in the room, and then make the outcomes that you’re working on the most valuable outcomes,” she said.
Also, ask questions and believe in the product or company you’re working for. “The drive to do well comes from being inspired by whatever it is you’re working on,” she said.
Ferrusi hopes her story inspires others to follow their passions.
“If you want to stay at the same job forever, you’re never going to unmask your potential. To do that means leaning into that feeling of risk,” she said.