Introducing Saul Ormiston

For this week’s staff spotlight, we managed to track down Saul Ormiston, the Senior Estimator for Igne’s site investigation arm in Hamilton. Having attempted to swerve an interview, citing the requirement to finish a bid, we soon caught him in the beam of our spotlight and gave him a grilling! What a delightful colleague he is - we’re very happy to share everything about him:

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How long have you been with Igne and what did you get up to before joining?

I joined in 2012 back when we were Raeburn Drilling & Geotechnical, and prior to that that I was at university doing an earth science degree.  I started as an Engineering Geologist and worked in that role, gaining invaluable experience, for nine years. 

In 2021 I was approached by Anne [Baxter] and Gordon [Ross] to work on the commercial side.

I transitioned across, working half on site and half in the office to begin with, splitting the role as I learned more about the commercial aspects of the business.  Eventually I became a full-time estimator and now I am the senior member of the team.

Why did you choose to work for Raeburn Drilling & Geotechnical?

They were hiring and I needed the money? 

In seriousness, I wanted to get into a role that was related to my degree.  A lot of my peers from university went out to Australia after their degrees to work in mining and exploration, but that wasn’t for me.

I suppose I should explain that I started doing a different degree at university.  I was doing physics and astronomy; it had a strong mathematical element that I was very comfortable with.  Then, after I changed course, I took an optional module in engineering geology.  The engineering side of things really appealed to me.

Raeburn had a close relationship with my university in Glasgow, and so I saw the opportunity as soon as it was posted; it completely aligned with what I wanted to do and married my interests in engineering, geology, and maths. 

Why did you change degrees (nosey question alert)?

After two years of physics and astronomy I took some time out to work, earn, and then travel before returning to Glasgow and using the experiences I’d had on my travels to inspire my change of track.

Where did you go?

The Arctic - specifically Svalbard which is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole.  It’s one of the world’s northernmost inhabited places; it's rugged, remote, and just full of glaciers and frozen tundra.

The expedition was organised by the British Schools Exploring Society, which is now known as the British Exploring Society.  It lasted for three months, and we all took part in different activities during the expedition, including skiing around Svalbard and conducting scientific research. 

When I returned, I decided to pursue a degree related to geography, geology, and earth science.  So, I shifted my degree course to align with my newfound interests.  That's how I got started on this path.

Wow – I’m envious of your travel experience.  But less about me – would you say your nine years working on site makes you a better estimator?

Absolutely, I’d say a strong background in siteworks is nigh on essential to be successful when developing and submitting proposals as you need to know what you are talking about.  Oftentimes, potential clients will over or underestimate the capabilities of certain investigation techniques and it requires a bit of a conversation/education on the best course of action.

A relatively recent example that springs to mind was our works at Palnacknie Harbour last year.  The specification originally asked for dynamic sampling, however the suspected ground conditions included backfilled materials likely to contain high proportions of cobbles and boulders which the technique was ill suited to deal with and would have led to large data gaps.

A conversation was had regarding alternative solutions, and we submitted our proposal based on sonic drilling.  This maybe cost the client a little more upfront, however it prevented the need to revisit the site again and again to try and fill gaps in the data due to using the wrong tool for the job.

Who’s Saul when he’s not at Igne?

I originate from the West Highlands, north of Oban, and like to spend time back there.  I play shinty, which is a traditional Scottish game played mainly in the Highlands and Islands.  It’s a bit like hockey but with bigger sticks and fewer rules!

I love cooking, strength sports, travel, and extreme metal so try and get around lots of concerts and events when bands come to town.

Saul Ormiston lifting the Dalwhinnie stone

[Saul is pictured lifting the Dalwhinnie Stone - a 102kg egg-shaped lifting stone.]

I’m also a bit of a nerd and I play dungeons and dragons - which is a lot of fun.  It’s also great for developing your interpersonal skills and supporting your mental health because it’s good fun and when you’re fully invested in your character, you’re living mindfully in the moment.

Tell us more?

Simply, you have a character you’re role playing - and it’s all about collective story telling.  You develop a story with others and we get together every two or three weeks.  It’s very sociable.

What does the future look like at Igne?

It is an incredibly good time to be in the business as the company invests in new equipment, new technology and new people.  There is a very good level of ambition throughout the company following the alignment and creation of the new brand.  I think the planned technological advancements that are in the pipeline will have a huge, beneficial impact for clients and colleagues alike.

We have quite a bit of work scheduled, and this will require a shift in perspective for us all.  We used to have busy periods to push through before business would calm down temporarily and people could catch their breathe.  But this isn’t a temporary busy period anymore, we've moved into a phase of ramping up, and it looks to be continuing this way, so as our orderbook scales our business needs to scale with it.

We're strategically increasing our workload, and keeping things consistently busy, which is beneficial for everyone.  We are hiring new staff and investing in new equipment because we know the work is there for Igne.

We have a high demand for more engineers and drillers – and this would be a great place to stop the interview and insert a link to our careers page.

Bossy aren't you!  Thank you Saul!