Founder and Executive Chairman, Room to Read; Award-Winning Author, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
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John J. Wood is the founder and board co–chair of Room to Read. An organization that believes World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equalityin education. At age 35, John left an executive career track at Microsoft to form Room to Read. The business acumen honed there, combined with his passion to change the world, makes John a unique and inspiring speaker with universal appeal.
John’s award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children (Harper Collins, 2006), tells how he raised over $200 million from a “standing start” to develop one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in history. The book was described by Publishers’ Weekly in a starred review as “an infectiously inspiring read.” Translated into 20 languages, it is popular with entrepreneurs, philanthro- pists, and educators alike, and was selected by Amazon.com as one of the Top Ten Business Narratives of 2006 and voted a Top Ten Nonfiction title of 2006 by Hudson Booksellers. The book was also featured during John’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the resulting “Oprah’s Book Drive” with Room to Read raised over $3 million from viewers.
John’s latest book is entitled Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy (Viking Penguin, 2013). This sequel tells the story of how the organization has successfully tackled next steps—including “scaling beyond my wildest dreams” while maintaining integrity and raising money in a collapsing economy. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement”.
John has been a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative and a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine’s Social Capital- ist Award. He has been honored by Time Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” Award, selected as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. 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.
John holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado, and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from the University of San Francisco. He also serves on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative and serves as an Adjunct Profes- sor focused on social entrepreneurship at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Policy.
- Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
- Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Change
ABOUT John Wood (+/-)
Effectively Applying Intelligent Business Strategies to the World of Non-Profits
John founded Room to Read out of deep concern that nearly one billion people lack basic literacy and that over 200 million children in the developing world are not enrolled in school. Since its founding, Room to Read has sponsored the opening of more than 750 schools and 7,000 multi-lingual libraries across the developing world, distributed over 5 million children’s books in multiple languages and supports nearly 7,000 girls with long-term scholarships. The organization currently operates in nine countries in Asia and Africa, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, South Africa and Zambia.
Honored Author, Dedicated Philanthropist
In his award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, John tells the story of how he raised over $80 million of financial commitments from a “standing start” to develop one of the fastest-growing non-profits in history. The book was described by Publishers’ Weekly in a starred review as “an infectiously inspiring read.” Now in its 14th printing and translated into 20 languages, it is embraced by entrepreneurs, philanthropists, educators, and internationalists alike, and was selected by Amazon.com as one of the Top Ten Business Narratives of 2006 and voted by Hudson Booksellers as a Top Ten Nonfiction title of 2006. The book was also featured during John’s appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the resulting “Oprah’s Book Drive” with Room to Read raised over $1 million from viewers.
SPEAKER TOPIC DESCRIPTIONS (+/-)
John’s first-person account of following his passion, and the lessons learned in doing so. It is a popular “inspiring close” or “bring people to their feet” dinner speech at corporate, industry, and education conferences.
John first delivered this presentation at a Microsoft sales conference based on a request from Microsoft’s sales leadership team whose sales reps faced an increasingly competitive and ever-changing economy: “what’s possible when a committed person dares to take risks and leave their comfort zone”. Needless to say, his message immediately resonated with his audience and continues to remain more relevant than ever as companies and their employees struggle to not only survive but thrive in dynamic market and industry conditions.
Leadership is a subject on which John lectures at leading business schools, including University of Chicago, Harvard, Kellogg, Wharton and Stanford. In this presentation, John highlights the leadership lessons that can be learned from the front lines of social change. This is an increasingly popular topic amongst corporations, universities, and membership organizations.