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Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneurs Odyssey to Educate the Worlds Children Paperback
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Reading the stories of people that he encountered, you get a sense of someone perhaps in the next town, rather than halfway around the world. And that is the story that John Wood is telling, that each of these children deserves a chance to learn, to get an education, to participate in making our world a better place for everyone. He has created the organization to make it happen, we just need to get on board and work together to ensure it does! If you can't imagine not being able to read, if you remember not wanting to put down that good book, if you were one who read by flashlight under the covers as a child, you will want to read this book and share it with others.
This is not so unusual: many successful business people, from Andrew Carnegie to Henry Ford to Bill Gates, have had "second act" careers as philanthropists. Wood simply started his early.
This book offers a first-person view of both careers with more chapters for the latter. I'm a fan of memoirs by successful people writing about their areas of expertise. This book delivers in full. In particular, I enjoyed the glimpses of Wood's network of high-energy, hyper-effective friends and colleagues. I aspire to be more like that.
On the downside, Wood writes as if he invented the idea of founding a charity. This is mostly okay, because this book is Wood's story. If you want more stories, read more books. However, Wood also neglects an important area: measuring and reporting results. Sometimes he mentions milestones such as number of libraries built, but he doesn't report anything such as improved scores on college entrance exams. In this age, charities should be accountable for results -- I'd like to see a chapter or two about that, with some actual stats.
On balance, though, I enjoyed this memoir about a go-getter who has built thousands of schools and libraries.
There are fun stories of John's personal history, he showed signs of determination and entrepreneurship from a young age. Then there are tales of Microsoft, it was fascinating to read of the discipline and perspective that was expected at Microsoft, and of the personalities (especially Steve Ballmer, the current CEO). There are also glimpses of John's very human side.
John builds communities to make his vision so successful. To raise money, John targets rich communities around the world: San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, etc., and finds volunteers who live in those cities to fundraise for him.
At the receiving end, when Room to Read provides funds for a library or school they mandate that the community bear half of the cost. Locals provide volunteer labor to build the building, haul the materials through mountain passes, etc. This means that locals have "skin in the game" and become committed to the success of what is being built.
John Wood has figured how to be a conduit of money from wealthy donors around the world directly to the poorest children. He has met this need better than any government. Seeing how John brought his talents to Microsoft and to Room to Read, and has done fantastically at both was fun.
A poignant point for me is that John is just like successful people you've met at college, graduate school, or in the workplace. What he did differently is that he went off the beaten path and did something "game-changing." Yes, he had over a million dollars from stock options that he was able to use to support himself, but so had 10,000 other people who had worked at Microsoft.
Hopefully John will write a sequel, and bring us along as he meets and addresses the challenges as his organization grows. Ok, now it's time for me to go write a check ;-)