Profile with Gillian Langor  

Gillian Langor (Newfoundland & St Cross 2010) is a Creative Strategist at Code and Theory, an interactive design agency based in San Francisco. Gillian holds an MBA from the University of Oxford, an MSc in Social Science of the Internet from the Oxford Internet Institute, and a BEng in Mechanical Engineering from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Rhodes Project: What is your favourite thing to do in the San Francisco Bay area?

Gillian Langor: Getting out of the city on weekends. It’s so close to so many different kinds of places- the ocean, wine country, world-class hiking—it’s tough to get bored. So much of my childhood in Newfoundland involved camping and hiking so getting outside makes me feel at home in California.

Rhodes Project: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Gillian Langor: I used to parrot this to anyone who’d ask me: “I want to be an archaeologist-slash-anthropologist”. I laugh now because at the time I truly thought being an archaeologist meant you would get to live like Indiana Jones.

Rhodes Project: What surprised you most about your time at Oxford?

Gillian Langor: I expected dreaming spires, robe-clad processions, and late night conversations at the pub—Oxford did not disappoint! What I could never have anticipated was the transformative role the Rhodes community would play in my Oxford journey. I made lifelong friends from all corners of the world who represent a range of professions, values, and beliefs.  This cast of characters has enriched my life and broadened my view of the world. I will be forever grateful for them and the Rhodes Scholarships.

Rhodes Project: What is the most exciting thing about what you currently do?

Gillian Langor: The opportunity to work at a design agency is a dream come true for me. My job enables me to directly leverage my Oxford education (I did a social science degree that focused on how we interact with, and use the Internet followed by an MBA). My role requires me to balance strategic thinking with human empathy while keeping a finger on the pulse of tech trends. In a nutshell, it’s both fun and challenging. I’m looking forward to growing in this role.

Rhodes Project: What are the biggest challenges that technological innovation is facing today?

Gillian Langor: These days, there seems to be a lot of buzz around “hacking the social sector”, or in other words, using technology in clever ways to address social problems. Whether it’s civic disengagement, social inequality, homelessness, or access to education, technology can be an important tool in any social entrepreneur’s toolbox. But iPhone apps don’t fight crime, and websites don’t teach disadvantaged kids—people do! Don’t get me wrong, I believe that technology has, and will continue to change the world, but acknowledging the complexity of social problems is an important step towards elevating the discourse and ultimately creating more positive impact through well-intentioned efforts of the tech community.

Rhodes Project: Is there something that consistently frustrates you?

Gillian Langor: Elitism.

Rhodes Project: When was the last vacation you took and where did you go?

Gillian Langor: A couple of months ago I spent a weekend in Calgary with two fellow “rhodents” and a childhood friend. Future visitors to Calgary, I have two words for you: Galaxie Diner.

Rhodes Project: What is something you’re looking forward to and why?

Gillian Langor: Spending quality time with my sewing machine. Sewing has been a favorite hobby for years, but I struggled to find time at Oxford to indulge. Getting back at it makes me realize how I must have missed having a creative outlet.

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