At age 35, John Wood left an executive career track at Microsoft Corporation to form Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that combines the heart of Mother Theresa with the scalability of Starbucks to help children across the developing world break the cycle of poverty through the power of education. 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. Mr. Wood 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 start in 2000, Room to Read has sponsored the opening of more than 750 schools and 7,000 multi-lingual libraries across the developing world. The organization has distributed over 5 million children’s books in multiple languages and supports nearly 7,000 girls with long-term scholarships. Mr. Wood describes these results as "total tip of the iceberg" as Room to Read plans to increase this literacy network to 20,000 libraries and schools serving at least 10 million children by the year 2020. The organization currently operates in nine countries in Asia and Africa, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, South Africa and Zambia.
In his award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World (Collins, 2006), Mr. Wood 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." Translated into 18 languages, it is popular with 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 Mr. Wood's appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the resulting "Oprah’s Book Drive" with Room to Read raised over $1 million from viewers. Because of the positive response from viewers, the show has re-aired on numerous occasions.
During his career at Microsoft, Mr. Wood ran significant parts of the company’s international business divisions, including positions as: Director of Marketing for the Asia-Pacific Division, Director of Marketing for Microsoft Australia, Director of Business Development for the Greater China region. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Colorado, and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of San Francisco.
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