Laurie Black, Nordstrom’s General Merchandise Manager for Cosmetics and Executive Vice President, is starting her 35th year at the specialty retailer. Laurie spoke to Beauty Insider about her start at Nordstrom, the best career advice she’s ever received and why she thinks being a well-rounded executive helps contribute to successfully managing a $1 billion beauty division.

1. BI: Growing up, were you one of those go-getters with a game plan? Or did your ambition kick in later?

LB: I always wanted to do everything, in school, with family, at Nordstrom and in the community.2. BI: Who are your mentors?

LB: I was lucky to have worked closely with the Nordstrom family early in my career—Bruce, Blake, Erik and Pete—and Dale Cameron, who was our corporate merchandise manager for cosmetics at the time. Having a relationship and learning from them was very helpful because I was pretty young when I started to build my career at Nordstrom. I was a corporate merchandiser when I was 24, responsible for an entire business division at a fairly early age. Fortunately I was around people who had way more experience than I had, so I got to listen and watch and see what they did.

3. BI: What’s the smartest career advice you received?

LB: It’s not about how hard you work, but what you accomplish. Make all decisions based on the customer, and always look for the positive.

4. BI: How did you wind up in beauty?

LB: When Dale Cameron retired, the company asked me to move from the Nordstrom Rack Division to take her place. I’d known and worked with Dale from my early days on the sales floor, and she’d always been one of my mentors. Over the course of my career, I developed a tremendous amount of respect for her personally, and as one of our company’s best merchants.

5. BI: Defining moment, so far?

LB: When I learned as a buyer that my success came through the success of those who I supported.

6. BI: Professional mantra you swear by?

LB: Live in the moment.

7. BI: Over the course of your career, what big skill sets have helped your success?

LB: Patience. At the start of my career, success seemed defined by a sense of urgency. It’s better to invest the time in doing things right and to achieve for the long term rather than making quick, short-term decisions.

8. BI: How do you think you approach the job differently than your peers?

LB: I love the whole buy-it-right-by-stores mentality. Instead of thinking of cosmetics as a $1 billion division, I like to think of it as 5,000 sales people who each need the products and the events that are right for their store and their customers.

9. BI: How do you stay focused?

LB: I set clear priorities and goals at the beginning of each year that ladder up to a three-year plan, and I keep them as the focus of my attention.

10. BI: What do young women need to possess to be successful in beauty?

LB: When I first started, the industry approached things in a way that was very focused on the brand versus the customer. I came from outside the beauty world. My experiences—from managing a store to running a jewelry department to buying lingerie to my current position—gave me a more well-rounded view of how to approach the business overall. My perspective was always, ‘what’s right for the customer?’

Laurie is one of 4 Achievers in the 2012 CEW Achiever Awards. Click here to register to attend the Achiever Awards Luncheon on November 2nd.