Quick Question

This LinkedIn Product Manager’s Career Hinged On An Early Pivot

Camilla Han-He shares the work advice she lives by.

by Kaitlyn Wylde
Camilla Han-He, a product manager at LinkedIn, discusses the social network's new Career Breaks feat...
Courtesy Camilla Han-He

In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice. Here, LinkedIn’s senior product manager Camilla Han-He shares the features she’s most proud of and her hack for beating imposter syndrome.

Camilla Han-He was just two years out of college when she realized she was ready for a career pivot. She had been working in finance, but wanted more hands-on experience learning how businesses grow. Just as her eye started to wander, some very meta kismet occurred: She was approached on LinkedIn, by a LinkedIn recruiter, about a job at LinkedIn. “The discussion got me super excited about what the company was trying to do for people like me, who were trying to make career transitions or find the next step,” the 31-year-old Kansas native says of the InMail that changed her life.

During her six years at LinkedIn, where she is now a senior product manager, Han-He has helped make profiles more user-friendly and dynamic, adding features like profile videos. But her team’s latest project speaks to what most excited her about the platform originally. Career Breaks, launching March 1, lets users speak to résumé gaps in a way that highlights the learnings they’ll bring back to the workplace. “The challenge with career breaks is that they’re often misunderstood, especially when they’re left out of people’s professional stories,” Han-He tells Bustle. “Now, you can add context and color around how these life experiences have helped you grow, stretch, and learn.”

Here, Han-He tells Bustle about the organizational tricks and words of wisdom she relies on to create new features like these.

Now more than ever, people are taking the time to pause or reroute. Given that, can you tell me how you hope people will use the Career Breaks feature?

People taking career breaks is not a new concept, right? But I feel like the pandemic has brought the topic to the forefront. We’re seeing a ton of people, especially women, take career breaks for all sorts of reasons, like focusing on their health and well-being, to caregiving, to layoffs, and everything in between. It can be difficult for people who are ready to reenter the workforce to explain what they’ve done. The feature offers a place to show how those learnings translate to roles that you’re interested in pursuing.

Coming back to the workforce or transitioning to a new role can be scary. Did you ever deal with imposter syndrome after your own career pivot?

I think it’s quite normal for people — especially women — to feel imposter syndrome. The key is just to look at everything as an amazing opportunity to learn. As long as I’m finding opportunities to learn from people smarter than me, I count that as a win.

How does a workday start for you?

My day starts the night before. I look at my calendar and figure out where I need to invest most of my time the next day. In the morning, I check sleep quality from the night before on my Oura Ring. I use my coffee time to quickly catch up on the news — my go-to apps are Jam.ai and The New Paper.

Once you’re caffeinated, do you have any practices that help you stay organized?

Before a big meeting, I write everything down that I need to do in a journal — I get it out of my head and onto paper so I can really focus on one thing at a time. I prefer a tangible notebook because at the end of the day, I get to bed and physically close that notebook and mark the end of that workday. But I also like to use Notion on my phone as a backup.

How do you pump yourself up immediately before that big meeting?

I find 30 seconds to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. It helps bring my heart rate down and gives me enough time to center myself. Then I pretend I’m the protagonist in a movie when she’s about to face her biggest challenge. You know the scene — the music swells, you feel the rush of adrenaline, and know they’re about to physically muster up all of the energy to kick some butt.

Who’s your protagonist of choice?

Wonder Woman. That film’s soundtrack is amazing. I put it on in the background to get myself amped up and then I feel ready to dive into anything.

What career advice do you live by?

Surround yourself with people smarter than you and seek their counsel often. People spend a lot of time trying to be the smartest person in the room, but I find that I actually get far more out of it when I seek out rooms that I can learn from.

Who’s on speed dial for advice?

My 94-year-old grandmother. Back in China, she was a linguist and traveled all over the country learning about different dialects and cultures. She had to deal with a lot of these struggles — how do you grow a successful and fulfilling career while also making sure that you have a happy and fulfilling home life as well? I always find it interesting that we grew up in very different times, have very different careers, and work with very different challenges. But when I talk to her about some of the things I’m going through at work, there’s a lot of commonality.

Have you ever gotten a bad piece of career advice?

“Don’t worry about titles. Just put your head down, do the work, and it’ll all work out.” While I agree in this principle that titles and pay aren’t everything, in reality, it’s incredibly important to speak up and take control of your career and ask for what you deserve.

What’s on your to-do list today?

I need to check in with my team and make sure that they’re good to go on the Career Breaks launch. On my ongoing personal to-do list is to learn how to cook, so tonight I’m going to figure out how to make a turkey tetrazzini.

After you clean up from cooking class, how do you turn your brain off?

I have to physically close my notebook. Then, I call someone — usually my grandmother. Then I do something without a screen, like build Legos or go on a walk.

Back up — Legos? Are you a secret Lego champ?

I love building Legos. Recently I completed the Saturn V Rocket. It’s my absolute favorite right now. There’s something incredibly therapeutic about taking a ton of little pieces and building something cool out of it.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.