John Wood – A real inspiration


Karthik, one of my fellow fellows just forwarded me an interview with John Wood, the founder & CEO of Room to Read, an award winning international education  organization. John has the inspiring vision of providing educational access to 10 million children in the developing world.

In the interview John talks about  encouraging young social entrepreneurs he meets and ensuring that he does not point out flaws in their business models. John mentions how in the beginning of starting Room to Read, most people told him that his ideas would not work.  Though I have never met John personally, I was reminded of how he inspired me to continue in the social sector through his book.

I very clearly remember buying John‘s book, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” in 2006 from a bookshop in Kochi, India. I had never heard of John Wood before but a title that suggested that there was another person who had left the IT sector for the social sector was reassuring. At that point in time most people would easily present counter arguments to my ideas on the social sector and try and convince me that I couldn’t have sounded more dumb! The book was an inspiring read and apart from other lessons, what I clung to most was that if such a super smart guy can believe that he has done the right thing, there must be something right about my decision to be in the social sector too.

I urge you all to read the interview and his book, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

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5 Responses to “John Wood – A real inspiration”

  1. Rob Says:

    Thanks, Suraj, for this post. I am a BIG fan of John Wood, his book and Room to Read. Along those lines…

    Another REALLY inspiring book is Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea. Subtitled “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time” it is a great companion to John Wood’s book and a real inspiration for many of us in the field.

  2. Kj Says:

    John Wood’s book ,inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and to really think about my career and my life. Similar to you, the fact that he had a tech background and had made a switch to building libraries (another personal favorite) resonated with me.
    It is interesting and humbling to see the scale (1.7million children) that has been reached by RtoR in 8 years and should give people working in the social enterprise sector something to think about.

  3. Suraj Says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for suggesting another inspiring book. I have heard a lot about Greg Mortenson and his book, “Three cups of tea” but unfortunately have never read it. I think its high time I got myself a copy.

  4. Suraj Says:


    I never knew that John Wood’s book shook you up too.. That makes 3 of us fellows (Mubarik is also a huge fan of John Wood) who were deeply inspired by John. Surprisingly all of us have tech backgrounds too 🙂 Is that just a coincidence?

    I totally agree with you on learning more about scaling up from R&R. Are you aware of any research on R&R’s growth?

  5. TZiPi Radonsky Says:

    Suraj, Here I sit comfortable in my own home reading your words knowing that when i read John Wood that my life too will be changed forever as I will never be able to look at my world the same anymore. I am sitting on a threshold honored and humbled to be in the life of four fellows this year and knowing I can no longer cling to my safe place. And now there is you change agent Suraj in my life, thank you and blessings of joy, TZiPi

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