John WoodFounder, Room to Read
Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
John Wood was a rising executive with Microsoft when he took a vacation that changed his life. What started as a trekking holiday in Nepal, back in 1998, became a spiritual journey and later a mission to change the world one book and one child at a time, by setting up libraries in the developing world. He ditched his career and went in pursuit of what was then a vague vision of the change he hoped to bring about for the 800 million people in the developing world who lack basic literacy.
Over the next five years, Wood chaperoned an unlikely marriage between Microsoft business practices and the world of non-profit organizations by creating Room to Read. To date, the organization has created a network of over 3,500 schools and libraries in rural and underprivileged communities throughout Asia and Africa, and has put over 2 million books into the hands of eager young readers.
Room to Read has been one of the fastest growing and most successful non-profit organizations in the world. Wood is the only non-Asian to ever win Time Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” award. He has been a three-time speaker at, as well as served on the Advisory Board of the Clinton Global Initiative. Acclaimed as the “21st-century Andrew Carnegie,” Wood has founded a public library infrastructure to help the developing world break the cycle of poverty, through the lifelong gift of education.