Few individuals choose to walk away at the height of their corporate career to dedicate their life to a social cause.
At age 35, John Wood did just that - quitting his position as Microsoft's Director of Business Development for the Greater China Region in order to found Room to Read. He has never looked back.
John's career at Microsoft spanned 1991 to 1999, where he ran significant parts of Microsoft's international business, as the Director of Marketing for the Asia-Pacific Division, Director of the Internet Customer Unit for Microsoft Australia, and Director of Marketing for Microsoft Australia.
In 1998, John took a vacation that changed his life. Trekking through a remote Himalayan village, he struck up conversation with a schoolteacher, who invited John to visit his school. There, John discovered that the few books available were so precious that they were kept under lock and key - to protect them from the children! Fewer than 20 books, all backpacker cast-aways, were available for more than 450 students.
What started with a simple email requesting friends donate used books has grown into Room to Read, an award-winning non-profit that over the past eleven years has established over 12,500 libraries, donated and published 10 million books, built over 1,500 schools, and supported more than 13,500 girls so they can graduate from secondary school with the skills they need to succeed. In total, Room to Read has impacted the lives 6 million children.
John strives to bring the lessons of the corporate world to the non-profit sector. Room to Read combines his passion with the discipline of a well-run global company. He has been described by Fast Company Magazine as "all heart, all business."
John has received countless honors for his work, including recognition as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum and as one of Time Magazine's "Asian Heroes." He has also been selected as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. The Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBS) named him one of "America’s Great Leaders" and he was selected by Barron’s as one of the "25 Best Givers" in 2009 and 2010, ranking 11th and 9th on the list, respectively.
Room to Read has won UNESCO’s 2011 Confucius Prize for Literacy recognizing excellence and inspiration in the literacy field. It is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine's Social Capitalist Award, a recipient of the Skoll Foundation Award for Social Innovation, and a recipient of Draper Richards Fellowship for social entrepreneurs. For fiscal efficiency, Room to Read has been awarded Charity Navigator’s highest 4-star rating for sound fiscal management for 5 years in a row.
John holds a Bachelors of Science, magna cum laude, from the University of Colorado, and a Masters of Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. He lives and works in New York, NY.
Praise for Leaving Microsoft
Marc Andreessen, Co-Founder, Netscape Communications:
"John's story is a spellbinding tale of his transformation from Microsoft velociraptor to a new life bringing the amazing gift of literacy to millions of kids around the world. One-third business saga, one-third world travelogue, and one-third human drama -- a 100% great book by a 100% great guy."
Margaret Miller, Cleveland, OH:
"You are doing exactly what & why I became a librarian - putting books into kids' hands and seeing the joy they bring. I haven't stopped talking about you since I heard you speak."
Invite John to speak at one of your events!
Razor-sharp business acumen honed at Microsoft, combined with a passion to change the world makes John Wood a unique, inspiring and popular speaker with universal appeal. His charismatic presentations focus on leadership, entrepreneurship, business, education and literacy, philanthropy and women's empowerment, as well as motivational messages about finding your passion in life, thinking big, and proving that anyone, with focused vision and determination, can make a significant impact on the world.
Click here for John's speaker biography.
To arrange a speaking engagement with John, please contact Erin Hogan at Room to Read: firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 (415) 839-4400.