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John Wood    

Founder & Board Co-Chair of Room to Read; Former Microsoft Marketing Executive

John Wood is the Founder of Room to Read, an organization that believes World Change Starts with Educated Children.® Through its work, Room to Read has brought the lifelong gift of education to 16.6 million children in 16 countries. At age 35, John left his position as Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Greater China region to found Room to Read. Seventeen years later, with over 30,000 schools and communities served, millions have been impacted by John’s decision to help a headmaster in Nepal fill his school’s library.

John’s award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World recounts how he used the business acumen gained during his career in technology to develop one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in history. Publisher’s Weekly review described the book as “an infectiously inspiring read,” Amazon selected it as a Top Ten Business Narratives of 2006, and Hudson Booksellers voted it a Top Ten Nonfiction title. Translated into 20 languages, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World was featured in hundreds of outlets including Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

John’s third book, released in February 2018 is titled Purpose, Incorporated: Turning Cause Into Your Competitive Advantage. Based on interviews with over 100 executives and entrepreneurs, the book is a bold manifesto urging business leaders to “unite purpose with profitability,” rather than view the two as antithetical notions. The book profiles companies that have used purpose to build a bond with customers, win the war for talent, motivate employees and lower attrition rates, increase social media influence, and attract the best investors. John’s share of profits from Purpose, Incorporated will be donated to Room to Read, with the goal of opening ten libraries that will serve 4,000 children.

John has been named by Goldman Sachs as one of the world’s 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, has been a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative and is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine’s Social Capitalist Award. He has been honored with Time Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” Award; selected as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum; is a Lifetime Achievement Honoree of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Disruptive Innovation Awards; and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He was twice selected by Barron’s as one of the “25 Best Givers.” In 2014, Queen Silvia of Sweden awarded John with the World’s Children’s Prize, also called the Children’s Nobel Prize. In recognition of his passion for opening libraries in the most under-served populations, the San Francisco Chronicle named John as the “Andrew Carnegie of the developing world.”

John holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado, and has received four honorary Ph.D.’s from schools including McGill University and the University of San Francisco. He has served on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative and the Board of Directors for Net Impact and One Acre Fund. He currently serves on the advisory boards of Global Citizen Year, New Story and Possible Health.

Speech Topics

Re-Imagining Leadership

As our world faces an unprecedented crisis of leadership, a "war for talent" rages, with the most visionary leaders building the most effective global teams. In this keynote, Wood inspires audiences to think differently and more boldly about what they can accomplish as leaders, talking candidly about his evolution as a leader, mistakes he's made along the way, and the lessons he's learned during two decades as a fast-rising Microsoft executive and as Founder of Room to Read.

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World

John Wood's first-person account of following his passion and the lessons learned in doing so. It is a popular "inspiring close" or "bring people to their feet" dinner speech at corporate, industry, and education conferences.

Purpose: The New Competitive Advantage

In this keynote, Wood discusses how corporate social responsibility represents the new competitive advantage; a way to re-engage customers and employees and improve the bottom line. He recalls his experiences using the ‘power of purpose’ to onboard resistant communities, motivate volunteers and enlist high-profile investors, while pointing to the growing number of corporations—like IBM and GE—that have begun building a ‘higher calling’ into their products and services. Wood demonstrates that “cause” is now the key to commercialism and inspires audiences to re-think old assumptions, dream big and take steps to align with the business world’s often-overlooked competitive advantage: purpose.

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