I discovered Everette Taylor about a year ago, after he shared some of my advice on social media. Amazed at how many Twitter followers he'd amassed (he currently has over 316,000), I started researching him. It turned out we share a lot in common, both being raised in Virginia and hailing from diverse backgrounds.

Taylor also happens to be a marketing genius. Through his company MilliSense (named after his mother), he's helped dozen of companies build their brands. He partnered with NFL Player Brandian Ross, developing a strategy to raise money for children with autism. He recently founded his fourth company and was hand-picked by Microsoft to advise the company's marketing efforts for new products.

Nowadays, he's the Chief Marketing Officer for Skurt, a company that delivers cars directly to those who need them, on-demand and through an app. (Think Uber for rental cars.)

All of this, at the ripe old age of 27.

After learning more about Everette's background, I could see the role emotional intelligence played in his success. I met with him to get more details about his journey.

Here are the highlights of our conversation.

1. What do you think of when you hear the words "emotional intelligence?"

I look at it as an ability to feel, an ability to look deeper into one's emotions, to see what makes you and others tick as a person. But it's layered, too. It's not only looking into yourself, but being able to figure other people out, too. Showing empathy, relating to others. Not everyone has that.

Of course, it's a great skill set to have in life and business, but it can also be really awful in the wrong hands. It quickly becomes a form of manipulation. It might be that the people with the highest EQs are the worst people in the world. Just look at some of the politicians we have today.

2. How has past experience helped you build emotionally intelligent qualities?

I think my upbringing was great for teaching me empathy. Growing up without much taught me a lot. Some of the kindest, most genuine people I ever met were the ones who had the least.

At the age of 17, I actually ended up being homeless and living out of my car for a while. And I discovered that people on the street would share the only food they had with me.

To see how generous people can be when they don't have anything shows you another side of humanity. Experiences like that teach you how to stand in another person's shoes, to understand people and what they go through. There's nothing better than being able to understand people.

Those experiences also help me never to forget where I came from. There are big issues in Silicon Valley with diversity--and I don't just mean color and gender. It's about finding people with different backgrounds and experiences. I'm all about finding those people because ultimately that makes the company better.

3. That's remarkable; thanks for sharing. Any recent experiences you'd like to share?

I remember once I was working under someone and they took all the credit for my work. I was putting together his presentations, writing all his stuff, and he took credit for everything. That stuck with me.

I try to give credit where it's due. Recently our company got a lot of attention for a billboard ad that went viral and I ended up getting some attention, too. But I'm just one part of the team. My response was, do you really think I took that picture? My creative director Paulo Dourado was instrumental in making that whole campaign happen. My guy Peter Prior, leading brand strategy, put in a lot of work.

In marketing and business, there's never one person who is solely responsible for anything.

A good manager always makes sure others get the credit and attention they deserve.

4. Is there anything you do now specifically, to contribute towards developing your EQ?

That's one reason why I travel. Why I enjoy having friends from all backgrounds. I still go from time to time and speak to someone who is homeless.

It's so important to listen, to get a feel for what people are going through.

5. You've developed a massive following on social media. What role has EQ played in that?

For one, it's easy to want to try and be someone you're not just to gain followers, but don't. Stay authentic.

People are becoming more and more socially intelligent--they can read through people. I think it's one reason I've had so much success on those platforms, because I've stayed true to myself, and people know they're getting someone real.

Tools like Buffer are great...but only to a certain degree. The message still needs to come from you and not just automated.

6. You've collected some great experience in your (relatively) short career--working with large multinationals and small startups. What lessons have you learned?

To get the best out of your abilities, you have to be passionate about the product or service you're offering.

Don't sacrifice who you are for a job. At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. I've been in the position where I've taken a job for money, and the company and its culture tried to change me into something I wasn't.

On the other hand, I'm really happy with my current situation. Skurt was a perfect culture fit for me.

7. What work advice would you give fellow millennials?

If you're only focused on money, you're hurting your career. Find something you're passionate about, and it will make you better.

Always know that you're replaceable. Don't get to the point where you become too big headed. You have to maintain a level of humility in order to continue to be hungry. Every day you should be trying to get better. You need that mindset.

Who you are today is not good enough for tomorrow. Constantly push yourself. Learn new things. Keep getting better.

Published on: Sep 26, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.