Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children
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John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life's work not at business school or helping lead Microsoft's charge into Asia in the 1990s but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. He made the difficult decision to walk away from his lucrative career to create Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that promotes education across the developing world. By the end of 2007, the organization will have established over 5,000 libraries and 400 schools, and awarded long-term scholarships to more than 3,000 girls, giving more than one million children the lifelong gift of education.
If you have ever pondered abandoning your desk job for an adventure and an opportunity to give back, Wood's story will inspire you. He 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 the world's most pressing social problems.
of English books I was perusing, and the other eye on Vu. Sure enough, one book rack over he was leafing through a modern, thick, state-of-the-art Excel guide. Proud of my cunning, I approached to close the deal. “That looks like a great study guide for Excel.” Vu slammed the book back on the shelf. “Yes, is nice. Did you find anything in English?” “No, I had no luck. But how about if we get this for you?” I suggested as I picked up the Excel book. “No, if you do that, you are not my
travel schedule as a Microsoft exec was going to look wimpy in comparison to what lay ahead. FROM SEATTLE TO THE HIMALAYAS (SEE BOX), FROM HONG KONG TO New York, our network of fund-raising volunteers and chapters was working like a well-oiled machine. It amazed me that I could walk into a small cocktail party in a distant city like Chicago or London and see over 100 people who were passionate about our cause. I believed in Room to Read, of course, but to see so many other people who had made a
and intelligence. So it was exciting to run into her, and having just made what I thought was a decent speech, I confidently asked her to join me on the dance floor. She smiled and asked in a concerned tone, “You look pretty tired, especially in the eyes; are you sure you’ll be able to stay awake through an entire dance?” Why do I work these long hours and put so much of my personal life on hold to focus so intently on Room to Read? Some people may not understand it and may wonder if I’m simply
story—the tsunami, a positive response to it, youthful zeal, entrepreneurship, and a new and timely twist on the wristband craze. The parents immediately gave us their approval. When Kim said they must be proud of their children, they immediately shared credit with the teachers, the principal, and other parents. I got Michele, our PR person, on the phone as soon as we had the green light. Because the cousins were in Boston and in Maryland, we decided to aim for the Boston Globe and the
phone. I was sweating. This was potentially a moment that would cause me to lose faith in our team’s ability to think big about creating change. The silence was broken by a member of our Board, whose opinion I greatly respected. “We know very little about Sri Lanka. If we want to make this decision, we should do a three-month study of the situation, then decide.” More dead air. Now I was really sweating. Another Board member responded immediately. “With all due respect, if back in 1998 John had