(Los Angeles) The founder and CEO of the marketing firm MilliSense also adds his contributions to start-ups and established organizations 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.”
- 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.”
Speaking up for the under-represented
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.”
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