Dates: January 2017 to May 2017
Team: Scott Dombkowski, Joseph Hines, Melody Ma, Densise Nguyen, and Devika Singh
Work Type: Academic

Seam is an intelligent mentorship platform that connects students with mentors to bridge the gap between academia and industry, facilitates learning, and encourages lasting human to human relationships.

Seam Concept Video

Addressing the Brief

Seam was a semester-long team project. We were briefed to design a product, service or solution that demonstrates the value and differentiation of AI in learning, teaching, and education.

Framing the Design Problem

My team found that the future of work is evolving due to rapid automation in different industries. The 2016 White House Report on Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy noted that 47% of jobs will be threatened by automation within the upcoming decade and only 0.01% of the U.S. GDP is spent on preparing citizens for the loss of potential jobs.

We also found that the workplace is relying more on soft skills, which are hard to automate and learn, especially for students and young professionals transitioning into the workplace.

Based on these insights, we focused on teaching soft skills specifically communication skills to students entering the workforce. With this focus, we constructed the following design question:

How might we teach communication skills to students entering the workforce?


We focused specifically on students and new grads in STEM, business, and creative fields. A large number of students making the transition from school to the workforce lack exposure and preparation for professional situations.

Research and Insights

Over the course of the project our team engaged with 45 people including subject matter experts, students, and managers through our exploratory, generative, and evaluative research phases.

Seam Research Phases

Our generative research phase included hosting a workshop with CMU students from across the CMU campus to better understand the value of communication skills both as students and professionals. The workshop included journey map and design your ideal communication tool activities.

The Journey to Finding Employment Journey Maps

Artifacts From the Design Your Ideal Communication Tool Acitvity

Through our research, we found:

  • Misalignment between what industry expects and what academia provides
  • Effective learning follows the model: Explicit Goals. Assessment. Feedback. Reflection.
  • Consistent preparation and practice is essential for being a confident communicator
  • Constructive feedback with context and reflection helps to improve communication skills
  • Mentors like to learn from their mentees, but find it hard to schedule time or connect
Design Principles

We mapped the insights we discovered through our research phases to design principles that helped us develop our solution. These insights were:

  • Create more transparency between academia and industry
  • Follow the Soft Skills Learning Model: Goals, Assessment, Feedback and Reflection
  • Promote Continuous Learning
  • Provide Consistent Individual Feedback
  • Facilitate Human to Human Connections

Research Insights and Design Principles Mapping


With these design principles in hand, my team designed Seam, an intelligent mentorship platform that connects students with mentors to bridge the gap between academia and industry, facilitates learning, and encourages lasting human to human relationships.

Focus on Education

Seam makes use of established soft skills learning models and recognizes that learning does not occur in a waterfall process, but instead one that cycles between establishing goals, assessment, the receiving of feedback, and reflection. The cycle then repeats itself based on what was attained in the last cycle.

Seam's Focus on Education

Leveraging AI

Seam also leverages artificial intelligence:

  • to find the perfect mentor or mentee, based on an individual's lived experience and the success of other mentor-mentee relationships on the platform and their similarities or differences to those people and those relationships.
  • to inform conversations, whether that be through scaffolding of a conversation (answers or suggestions made by Seam that push the mentor or mentee in a certain direction) or by providing of a relevant resource based on the context of a conversation.
  • to inform interactions (help with scheduling a meeting, establishing a milestone, leveraging conversations on the platform to know the most vulnerable times in the transition from college to the workplace and engage mentees at those times to ease the transition.)
  • for future improvements (better matches and conversations) and most importantly the generation of training sets that can then inform a more advanced system possible of human-computer symbiosis and mentor-mentee-AI relationships where all participants work together to improve.

How Seam Leverages AI


Seam gets to know a user by asking about them about their goals, experiences, background and communication preferences.

Mentor and Mentee Matches

SEAM suggests the ideal mentor based on a user's background and preferences and provides them with the rationale behind why they were matched in an effort to make this selection process as transparent as possible.

Virtual Agent

SEAM can be enabled or disabled at anytime, giving a user complete control of privacy and sharing.


A user gets an overview of their progress, plan and past discussions.

Quick Chat

A user can use the chat section to ask their mentor quick questions. SEAM supports the conversation with helpful suggestions, links and scheduling.

SEAM provides relevant resources and plans longer video conversations.

SEAM can step in to provide immediate answers and provide actionable steps that can help Taylor achieve her goals and milestones.

Video Chat

When a longer discussion is needed, SEAM prompts mentors and mentees to schedule a longer conversation through video chat. If SEAM receives consent from both participants, the virtual agent collects resources and insights from their conversations that can be reviewed later.


SEAM nudges both mentors and mentees to reflect regularly on their progress at key moments.

Goals and Milestones

Mentors and mentees set goals and milestones. Milestones are smaller steps towards Taylor's long-term goal.


Mentees get an overview of their completed and in-progress milestones. They can check the actions pending to make progress towards their goal.


Mentees can view the complete collection of resources and insights gathered by SEAM. These are sorted into themes and stored in the Archive.

Impact of Seam

Seam provides value by:

  • enabling new hires to be better contributors
  • building confidence in different contexts
  • facilitating lasting relationships between mentor and mentees
  • compiling a repository of knowledge on what it means to have a successful mentorship

Seam's Impact

Future Growth

Reflecting on our semester, my team was interested in further exploring:

  • How might this platform be applied to other contexts?
  • How might a mentee transition into a mentor?
  • How might the collected data be leveraged in the future?

Areas of Future Growth


User Flow

Onboarding User Flow

Typical Interaction User Flow

Onboarding Screens

Match + Home Screens

Archive Screens

Archive + Virutal Agent Screens

Chat Tools Interaction Screens

Mobile Video Chat Screens

Reflection Screens

Progress Screens

Insights From Usability Testing

Interacting With A Virtual Agent Usability Testing

Transparency Within Chat Usability Testing

Chatting With Seam Usability Testing