29 February 2024

Sandra Humphries: a shining star in education

Sandra Humphries, VP of Talent Development and Customer Engagement for Goldwell, has always been at home on the stage. Today she uses her communication skills and means of expression as an educator. EsteticaUSA asked her about her career and her views on education in the hair industry.

As a young woman, Sandra Humphries entertained a passion for the performing arts. Today she is still “performing” and inspiring, but for hairdressing students. We asked her about her about her life path and her current role as Vice President of Talent Development and Customer Engagement, Kao Salon Division.

Tell us how you started out in theater, then cosmetology school, joining Goldwell, and your career growth there.

From elementary school through college, I spent more time in theater and music than anything else. Acting, singing, and playing instruments was a joy for me. At the time I competed in state and regional competitions and had some success, but I knew that many performers have jobs waiting tables while they wait for auditions and that big break. I thought being a hair stylist would be more fun and creative, so during college I enrolled in cosmetology school at night. I seemed to have a knack for hairdressing and never looked back.

Since then, I have worked in and managed salons, taught and managed a beauty school. I also worked for manufacturers in education, sales, sales administration, training, and content development. My love of education and development brought me to Goldwell and the Kao Salon Division. They have such beautiful products, Goldwell color is unparalleled, and KAO employees are really passionate about their stylists. 

Then, from my role as Director of Education to VP of Education for the US, I moved to serving as division VP of Talent and Development for the region covering Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and the US. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced during your professional growth? 

There were plenty of challenges along the way to where I am now. Staying motivated when I was building my clientele and finding the best training to refine my skills were sometimes difficult. I also worked such long hours to make money that my personal life suffered. I learned eventually to work smarter by taking business classes and learning better systems.

Finding work was a matter of networking. I never used a headhunter and instead talked to colleagues, mentors, educators that inspired me, and salespeople. These people know what is going on in our industry and where the opportunities are.

A great educator talks less and asks questions more. If a student gives them time out of their day, they had better deliver an “ah-ha” moment!

Sandra Humphries

What skills from your previous career paths have come in handy where you are now?

I have been fortunate to work alongside marketing and finance experts in my career, and that has helped build my understanding of our business. If every stylist could attend the marketing or finance classes available in our industry, it would round out their command of our craft. 

I’m also still learning. I still take a lot of courses and watch not only what instructors are teaching, but also how they are teaching. Being a successful educator isn’t just about having great hairdressing skills, it’s also about helping others find their own way of learning through great presentations. 

How have things changed in the hairdressing industry over the years – for better or for worse?

The short answer is that technology has changed almost everything, from inventory management to communication and booking clients. The long answer is that while our technical skills and personal relationships with clients remain at the heart of the profession, digital development has changed how we learn, what we are exposed to, and how we communicate to find clients. Our attention span is very different, and that’s a game-changer for better or for worse.

Are young people still interested in studying cosmetology and hairdressing/barbering?

Yes! But I am not sure they really understand the training involved. They’re used to watching people on social media outlets “do hair.” That’s not professional training. 

We must find ways to help the next generation of stylists build their skills alongside wonderful teachers, and schools and apprentice programs must evolve in order to attract the best talent.

How do you recruit potential students and top talent? 

We use all the different media outlets. We go to shows and events. And we talk to sales professionals who are in salons regularly. Our education team members are also in salons talking to stylists about future goals. Every stylist should get to know their salespeople and store representatives well, because they know what’s available in their markets.

What makes a good educator/mentor?

A great educator talks less and asks questions more. They determine what the participant wants as a successful outcome from the session. They are entertaining and engaging without being the center of attention. If a student gives them time out of their day, they had better deliver an “ah-ha” moment. 

Who educates the educators? 

Often those people are called trainers. They are not only technically skilled, but they also master everything an educator must do to be excellent. Our trainers cover topics like tripod standards, flip charting, and how to properly answer questions that are asked in class

What recommendations would you make to young people seeking a career in hairdressing?

If you are drawn to the beauty industry, just jump in. I have met so many people who did something else first only to eventually become hairdressers, and they are now very happy and fulfilled. That’s what everyone longs for, isn’t it? 



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