Synopses & Reviews
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.
"It's a rare business book that not only provides savvy insights for better business practices but transcends the category altogether, to rank as an infectiously inspiring read. Wood takes the reader on an engaging journey from his life as a rather ordinary marketing director at Microsoft through the transformative decision to launch the nonprofit organization Room to Read (), which has created more than 2,000 schools and libraries for children across Asia. From his first trip to Nepal, where he was struck by the country's 70% illiteracy rate, through his courageous decision to leave Microsoft, to the logistics of growing and expanding the Room to Read initiative, Wood endears himself to the reader with his introspection and honesty. Crediting his former employer with giving him the business skills and drive to aim high, he outlines the concrete steps he took to make his vision a reality. Marked by sincerity and savvy, this is the kind of book that business colleagues will discuss with their acquaintances, spouses and friends. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“The bottom line is passion, and it seems the world is better off for John Wood having followed his.” USA Today
“In this captivating memoir....Wood provides recipes for how to succeed at operating nonprofit firms globally, regardless of local cultures.” Library Journal
“One-third business saga, one-third world travelogue, and one-third human drama -- a 100% great book ....” Marc Andreessen, co-founder, Netscape Communications
“Room to Read is one of the best long-term investments I have made.” Don Valentine, founder, Sequoia Capital, early investor Apple, Electronic Arts, Google, Oracle, and Yahoo
About the Author
After earning an MBA at the prestigious Kellogg School of Management, John Wood worked for several years in banking before joining Microsoft in 1991. Through hard work and determination, he ascended rapidly, earning coveted overseas assignments in Australia and China. While serving as Microsoft's Director of Business Development for the Greater China region, Wood decided to change his life's focus to help children break the cycle of poverty through the lifelong gift of education. In 2000, he founded Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and soon in Africa. When not traveling the world fund-raising and visiting Room to Read communities, he lives in San Francisco.