John J. Wood is the founder and board co–chair of Room to Read, an organization that believes World Change Starts with Educated Children® and seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. At age 35, John left an executive career track at Microsoft Corporation to form Room to Read, and 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 $80 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 $1 million from viewers.
John has been a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative and a five-time winner of the Fast Company Magazine and Monitor Group Social Capitalist Award. He has been honored by Time Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” Award, recognizing “20 People under 40 who have done something brave, bold, or remarkable.” He has also been selected as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Insti- tute. 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.
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.
Please note that while this speaker’s specific fee falls within the range posted (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.
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- “John spoke at our 500-person Starbucks marketing conference and was an amazing inspiration to our global team. Here is someone who is literally changing the world, and he invites you to participate! He does so with humor, energy, and no guilt. If you want to hear a story that will end with a standing ovation, invite John to speak (and then donate to his organization)!"
- The Power Within (Toronto, Canada)
- Starbucks Corporation (Seattle, Washington)
- Microsoft Corporation (Seattle, Washington)
- Borders Bookstore, Inc. (Rye Brook, New York)
- Professional Businesswomen of California (Sacramento, California)
- Council on Foreign Relations (Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C.)
- Sand Hill Group (San Francisco, California)
- The Oprah Winfrey Show (airing in 2007)
- CNN Headline News
- Fox News
- National Geographic Television
- Star TV Asia
- Bloomberg Television
- CNBC, “Squawk Box”
- PBS, “The Great Leaders” series
- Good Morning Australia
- The New York Times
- International Herald Tribune
- The Wall Street Journal
- Chicago Tribune
- Washington Post
- Boston Globe
- San Francisco Chronicle
- San Francisco Examiner
- South China Morning Post
- Singapore Straits Times
- The Guardian (UK)
- The Australian
- Fast Company Magazine
- Town and Country
- Travel and Leisure
- San Francisco Business Times
- Delta Airlines Sky Magazine
– Anne Saunders, Senior Vice President, Starbucks Coffee Company
“John is a breath of fresh air to executives and professionals who are typically caught up in their busy lives. He connects with people’s natural desire to do good for society. John was a big hit at our Software 2004 conference, where he received a standing ovation (the only one in the history of the conference) from over 1,000 CEO’s, VP’s, and venture capitalists. He is an engaging speaker who is guaranteed to make people passionate about life.”
– MR Rangaswami, Founder and CEO, Sand Hill Group
Recent Speaking Venues
John’s work has been featured by a wide variety of major media outlets, including:
Click here for a brief video about the book.
John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life′s work--not at business school or leading Microsoft′s charge into Asia in the 1990s--but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. Wood felt trapped between an all-consuming career and a desire to do something lasting and significant. Stressed from the demands of his job, he took a vacation trekking in Nepal because a friend had told him, "If you get high enough in the mountains, you can′t hear Steve Ballmer yelling at you anymore."
Instead of being the antidote to the rat race, that trip convinced John Wood to divert the boundless energy he was devoting to Microsoft into a cause that desperately needed to be addressed. While visiting a remote Nepalese school, Wood learned that the students had few books in their library. When he offered to run a book drive to provide the school with books, his idea was met with polite skepticism. After all, no matter how well-intentioned, why would a successful software executive take valuable time out of his life and gather books for an impoverished school?
But John Wood did return to that school and with thousands of books bundled on the back of a yak. And at that moment, Wood made the decision to walk away from Microsoft and create Room to Read-an organization that has donated more than 1.2 million books, established more than 2,600 libraries and 200 schools, and sent 1,700 girls to school on scholarship-ultimately touching the lives of 875,000 children with the lifelong gift of education.
Leaving Microsoft to Change the World chronicles John Wood′s struggle to find a meaningful outlet for his managerial talents and entrepreneurial zeal. For every high-achiever who has ever wondered what life might be like giving back, Wood offers a vivid, emotional, and absorbing tale of how to take the lessons learned at a hard-charging company like Microsoft and apply them to one of the world′s most pressing problems: the lack of basic literacy.
- Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
At age 35, John Wood left his job as director of business development for Microsoft Corporation?s Greater China region to form Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy in impoverished parts of the world.
In his inspiring presentations, John describes how he founded Room to Read after becoming concerned that nearly a billion people in the world lack basic literacy, ′I was blessed with a great education, and as a result I had a great career and made some money. I started Room to Read as a way to give that same opportunity to children in some of the world?s poorest villages.′
Leaving Microsoft tells the story of Room to Read′s infancy, the early successes, and lays the groundwork for the long-term vision of world change. John vividly chronicles Room to Read′s beginnings, from his life-altering decision to leave the corporate world, to his quest to create a non-profit with a strong business ethos, and continuing until the present day.
John Wood?s work has been profiled by Bloomberg Television, CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and USA Today. He holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Northwestern University and a Bachelor′s of Arts degree in Finance from the University of Colorado.