Failure Is An Option And Other Advice From Millennial Marketing Genius Everette Taylor
Marketing executive and serial entrepreneur Everette Taylor, 26, shot up from out of nowhere to become a shining star in Silicon Valley’s tech universe. The founder and CEO of the marketing firm MilliSense also adds his contributions to start-ups and established organisations such as GrowthHackers, Sticker Mule, Qualaroo and United Way to his list of successes. Meanwhile, he’s partnered with NFL Player Brandian Ross on a clothing line, Unity Over Self, to raise money for children with autism. He’s also an influential voice in the call for diversity and gender inclusion in the tech community.
It seems like Taylor, from Richmond, Va., now living in Downtown Los Angeles, is in the position to take whatever he wants. He’s young, accomplished, creative, talented and driven. But here’s what you mightn’t get on your first pass: Taylor was homeless at 17 during his senior year of high school. “I’ve come a long way and battled many obstacles to get where I am today, but knowing where I was just eight years ago keeps me level headed,” he said, “I understand how blessed I am and how much more harder I have to work to get to where I want to be.”
Taylor started out shoveling snow, washing car windows and making a few bucks here and there from other menial tasks. He’d use the money to pay for motels and interview clothes. Finally, he got a job at CVS, and soon after, applied to college. “When I got to college I took my first official job with United Way as a marketer and the rest is history,” he says.
Millennials need to be multitalented, cautious
Taylor is acutely aware that Millennials today face different challenges than their parents or grandparents did. “In the past, I feel that you could get away with having a single skill set and accounting help to start a business. Millennials need to be a lot more versatile than their parents , equipping themselves with several skills that include becoming more technically sound and capitalizing on the digital space,” he said. “Millennials want to make their mark, they don’t want to just follow in the footsteps of those before them.”
This translates to a more competitive market for finding jobs and starting businesses: “Millennials have to go above and beyond to have that competitive advantage over their peers. They have to stay hungry, constantly learn, and maintain discipline to want to get better at their craft and not get comfortable.”
He also adds a word of caution for Millennials: Leave a meticulous digital footprint. That means not only having a solid digital portfolio, but also, making sure your judgment appears impeccable online. “It’s a lot easier for our mistakes to be caught and shared to the world. Millennials have to continuously be aware of the things they do and say on social media and in person, even if they feel they have privacy.”
He offers this advice to other Millennials making their way in the world:
- Stay hungry: “Kent Beck once said, ‘I’m not a great programmer; I’m just a good programmer with great habits.’ I think this rings true for me when it comes to being a marketer and entrepreneur. There will always be people more intelligent or more talented, but I won’t let anyone outwork me … It’s hard for me to sleep if I feel that I didn’t give my best effort that day or I could have done more.”
- Keep evolving: Taylor is in continual learning mode to improve his skills, learn life hacks, and find out what the competition is up to. “I’m also a big believer that growing companies is a team sport. I’m humble enough to know when to take a step back or ask for help from those with more expertise. I regularly ask for feedback from colleagues and friends.”
- Focus on the right things: He said that at one point in his life, his relationships suffered in his pursuit for success. “Society makes us overvalue money, especially if you grew up without,” he said. “Money and success doesn’t bring true happiness, it’s something that you have to constantly chase to try to maintain happiness. Make sure to focus on the things and people that matter most in your life and don’t forget the people who helped you to get to where you are.”
- Take jobs that matter: “Your 20s and 30s is still a time of learning in your career. Make the best job decisions that will help you continue to grow as a professional and a person, don’t just take the job that pays the best. The right work culture, colleagues that will push you to be your best and genuinely care to see you succeed; and a learning environment to sharpen your skills is integral to your success. Money will come if you continue to develop yourself into a person of value.”
- If you can’t find a job, make one: Start working on your own projects and start your own small business if you’re having trouble getting traction professionally. “But you should never get so down on yourself that you think all the doors are shut. That’s the wrong mentality to have. Perseverance and confidence is an absolute necessity. Be relentless and knock down the doors you need to. Prove that you can do it for yourself, which shows value to other companies the skills and talent that you can bring to the table.”
- Risk and fail: It’s a hallmark that nearly everyone in their 20s, regardless of their generation, considers themselves invincible with a lot of time ahead to work things out. But Taylor is sobered by his reality, and wants to make sure his time here is well-spent. “Make sure you’re maintaining personal happiness and staying true to who you are. Do what you love and work on products you believe in, life is too short. It feels like every few weeks I hear about young people from my hometown dying too soon. Take advantage of all the opportunities put in front of you and don’t be afraid to fail.”
Taylor has spent a lot of energy trying to reverse gender and racial disparities in the tech industries, especially as women and people of color navigate “the game.” Do they play it? Change the rules? Make their own game? Or something else?
He thinks it’s a combination of all the above. “You play the game as-is and use it as an opportunity to learn and see what needs to be improved. But don’t be naive, know the game you’re playing,” he said, underscoring that the rules must be changed systematically. “The problem lies within the makers of those original rules that still are in power. If those ‘powers that be’ don’t genuinely start caring, progress will be minimal at best unless there is a shift in power.”
He says to look beyond the “we’re committed to diversity” platitude you’ll see from nearly every company. “I hear many in the tech space preach diversity, yet things aren’t improving. You have to be able to live out the words you speak,” he said. “In regards to making our own game, we need more input and decision making power when it comes to building out teams.”
For example, Taylor recently had a discussion with a talent recruiter from a major company. “They try their best to recommend diverse candidates up for positions but ultimately they have no control in the decision making,” he said. “We need to make our own game, truly hold companies accountable, and make sure that we play an integral part in the changes that need to happen.”