There's no doubt that John Wood has done incredible things and helped thousands of children. His nonprofit, Room to Read, which started by stocking one library in Nepal, works with communities in six Asian countries to build schools, computer labs and libraries, as well as providing long-term scholarships for young women. Wood's memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, is to some extent an inspirational story of how to create a more meaningful and service-oriented life. There are glimpses of how genuinely touched Wood is by the way his work changes people's lives for the better. But Wood spends most of the time talking about the stellar corporate track he gave up and the masterful ways he uses business techniques learned in that lifetime to run his new venture which is to be expected; this is a business book after all.
It is clear that Wood has simply shifted his Type-A drive for success from selling software to selling a cause. Although there's a fundamental difference between the two, Wood's constant focus on numbers, his ability to close a sale and a management style that has allowed him to build and inspire a global team of hard-working employees and volunteers are just some of the skills that served him so well at Microsoft and that have enabled him to grow his nonprofit so quickly and successfully. When someone leaves a lucrative position with one of the world's foremost companies to start a nonprofit, your inner humanitarian wishes him nothing but the best. When Wood decides to leave Microsoft, he practices his answer to the question What do you do? until he is happy with his description of his new venture. He writes, It was clear that I would be proud to say this. If anyone judged me harshly, I would ignore it. The sad thing for this story is that Wood still seems nearly apologetic for creating a nonprofit that has clearly benefited from all of his particular skills and drive and no one would judge him harshly for that. Megan Brenn-White writes from her home in Brooklyn.