UserTesting Uses Coaching to Support the Creation of a Leadership Development Program

The Strategy

Realizing that buy-in for the initiative would be critical for any type of leadership development program to scale, UserTesting enrolled senior leaders from the engineering and product development side of the business through the program first. As a result of their participation, these leaders not only reaped benefits of coaching, but the chief technical officer also reaped benefits as his leadership team began to up-level in their strategic thinking, cross-functional collaboration and team development. These senior leaders then also went on to become internal advocates for coaching, identifying other leaders who could benefit from the experience.

The Solution

UserTesting chose Sounding Board as their vendor because their approach was not only data oriented, but also because it allowed leaders to personalize their experience by identifying the top leadership areas of focus specific to their development needs. Leadership capabilities that coachees could develop included:

Using Sounding Board’s automated coach matching model, coachees were paired with Sounding Board coaches, and met two times a month over a six-month period. In between coaching sessions, coaches and coachees used Sounding Board’s technical platform to stay connected and to discuss how coachees were applying their learning to their jobs.

The Result

The automated coach matching model resulted in a 97 percent satisfaction rate; coachees reported a 91 percent average coach satisfaction rating after their first session alone. When asked if their coaching experience was off to a good start, 93 percent of coachees agreed. Ninety-one percent of coachees agreed that their coach was a good match for them, and 86 percent said they had a good understanding of how coaching could work for them.

Coachees and their managers saw the biggest growth in these leadership areas:*

Leadership Capabilities
Coachee Growth %
Manager Growth %
Executive presence
Leading high-performing teams
Organizational collaboration
Setting vision and direction
Strategic thinking

* The percentage of growth is based on the difference in coachee and manager ratings at the beginning of the process and at the end of the program.

As one UserTesting coachee said that “[My coach] asked engaging questions that allowed me to drill down deeper into what I’m thinking about. In our first session, I felt like we were already on a great coaching plan direction.”

Another coachee said that their coach was “a very good listener, but also challenges me as she listens and repeats what I say in a way that forces me to re-evaluate my thoughts, which is exactly what I needed.”

Coachees loved their experience and rated Sounding Board with an NPS score of 87, which demonstrates how willing they would be to recommend coaching to their peers and colleagues.

As part of the UserTesting retention strategy, the organization continues to invest in coaching for their leaders. The program has expanded to focus on leaders at all levels, including individual contributors. UserTesting reports that leaders now have a better understanding of what softs skills are and how important those skills are to their leadership and growth. “Overall, leaders have demonstrated a great deal of self-confidence and awareness that they were able to build through their work with their coach,” says Avery Coleman, senior people business partner at UserTesting. But the ultimate criterion for success comes in the form of leaders raising their hands to re-engage with the Sounding Board coaching experience; 20% of leaders continue to work with their coaches beyond the initial investment.

Headquarters location:
San Francisco, CA

Founded: 2007

Building products and experiences that are centered around the people that use them is an expected mission for today’s successful organizations—but it wasn’t always that way. Dave Garr and Darrell Benatar recognized the need for fast human insight back in 1999 when the pair first began working together and needed a more scalable solution to test web experiences.

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Niall MacGearailt

SVP of Finance
Niall MacGearailt leads Sounding Board’s finance division as the SVP of Finance and Operations. Niall earned a solid track record of improving P&L and operational expense management for leading companies such as Whirlpool, Logitech, Avaya and most recently Soraa, where he prepared the business for acquisition by leading hi-tech lighting company, Ecosense. In his role, he is responsible for building and leading the finance & relevant operations functions for the company.

Ron Buell

VP of Engineering
Ron Buell is the VP of Engineering at Sounding Board and an accomplished software professional with extensive experience in leadership, software engineering, project management, and product management. Ron has led the development of highly scalable systems and applications across a variety of technologies for companies including OpenFeint (acquired by GREE), Rdio (acquired by Pandora), Lyris Technologies, and Lotus/IBM Software Group. In his role at Sounding Board, Buell is responsible for all engineering efforts in developing, deploying, and maintaining the enterprise software platform and team for the company.

Tommy Perkins


Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

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Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.