Working at Illumina was such a great experience. They have a sizable intern scheme, covering both 3 month summer internships and year long placements, meaning there were plenty of others in the same position. Due to this size, Illumina would run joint activities for us, to bond with each other, socialise and develop soft skills which would be useful for both our jobs and once we return to university. Specifically within the finance team, everyone was so friendly and approachable, that everyday in the office was exxciting and I got the opportunity to collaborate with many, making it both fun and interesting.
I worked in the tax team and was a key member of the team. They trusted me enough to give me important VAT compliance tasks such as calculating and submitting VAT returns, which were important to get correct. This made me feel valued as most of the tasks I did directly contributed to the team goals and felt like "real work" rather than acting as an assistant.
My manager was very approachable and supportive. He would frequently drop what he was doing to help me with a task or to explain a complicated tax concept to me. At Illumina all managers have at least fortnightly one to ones, which allowed them to check how I was coping and give me any support or guidance I needed, be that directly related to work, to advice about my future career and recommendations in the area due to having relocated for the role.
I had a good balance of monthly compliance tasks which had a set deadline each month, and of longer term projects to work on in the gaps between the compliance tasks. Examples of compliance tasks I did are reconciliations of VAT accounts at month end, variance analysis, VAT returns and intrastat, bank clearing, etc. My projects were mainly working on tax R&D schemes that HMRC run to reduce the corporation tax we paid. In the first couple of months there wasn't as much to do and I had more free time, but this was mainly to do with settling into the role and not being able to tackle some of the more complicated tasks. By the fourth month I had a perfect balance and this continued for the remainder of the internship.
I was given a significant amount of responsibility when it came to VAT returns. Illumina has 13 legal entities across Europe and for each one we would have to calculate and submit a VAT return every month. It was my responsibility to do this for about half of the entities, however I still was able to ask for help and guidance if I had any queries so did not feel burdened with them or worried too much about mistakes.
My internship was based in tax, but my degree is in maths. For the remainder of my degree I am unlikely to use any of the technical tax knowledge as this will not be relevant. However many of the soft skills which I developed will be useful for my degree and beyond. These include workload time management, organisation, team work, excel skills, presentation skills, etc. However, my internship has helped me decide what I want to do once I graduate, as I have now decided to pursue tax as a career, for which all of the tax technical knowledge and experience I have gained will be extremely useful.
Illumina have a very relaxed and open environment. Nobody had an office, it was all open planned, including the senior leadership team. This made everyone approachable and felt not at all stressful. Due to this I got along with everyone I worked with and was able to get help from anyone I asked.
It was run by the HR team, who arranged group activities for all the interns throughout the year. On a day to day basis I was just part of the tax team and felt like an ordinary member of the team, receiving my tasks from my manager and organizing my own time to get everything completed. It felt seamless because as soon as I started I was part of the team and didn't even feel like an intern.
My manager and other tax coworker frequently put time aside to talk to me about tax concepts in order to ensure I understood them. This was very useful and interesting and made me feel valued as they wanted to further my knowledge. Also in our fortnightly one to ones, my manager would often ask about how I felt my skills and knowledge were developing and what other areas I would like to focus on. One example was when I said I was keen to develop my presentation skills as I had not had much experience presenting. He then arranged two separate opportunities for me to present to groups, and spent time helping me prepare and giving me tips. I felt very invested in. Also whenever the company paid for training for the whole finance team, I was included despite only being an intern, so I received external training on topics such as excel skills, teamwork and presenting. Also when HR set up events for the interns, it almost always included an opportunity to develop a soft skill, often sometimes taught to us from very senior members of staff, which felt very significant.
Sports and Social Club
Staff Sales/Staff Shop
Working from home
I would love to come back and work at Illumina if they are able to offer me a role in the team I was based in. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship and would love to develop my career there. Both my manager and finance director have mentioned possibilities of working there in the future, which would include Illumina paying for my accountancy qualifications which would be amazing and a very exciting opportunity if I get the chance
The HR team initially brought us together through fun activities and skill developments, starting off with an escape room to allow us to bond and get to know each other. This led on to us organizing our own activities outside of work, including playing squash/tennis after work, going out for food and drinks, and attending local events and fairs. We all got along very well and I am sure we will keep in touch now that we have left. For my year there were about 8 year long interns, but I know this year there are even more, as well as several summer interns.
I was located in Cambridge, which compared to some areas isn't that cheap, but I was able to group up with some of the others to find somewhere affordable to live. The cost of living was cheaper than I was used to, as I originally come from London, but I know some of the interns who have come from the north found it a bit more expensive.
Ther are plenty of pubs in Cambridge with affordable drinks, we mostly went to the Wetherspoons or to one of the many Green Kings. There were not that many clubs in Cambridge and we mainly went to Revolution where both entry and drinks were rather expensive. For those interested in alternative music, the club Fez hosted a Propaganda night every Friday.
Illumina paid for a Nuffield gym membership which was located on site. This gave us many activities to get involved in, such as classes, squash, tennis, swimming, climbing and the gym itself. Cambridge often has events on in the city so there is often something to do at the weekends. One of my favourite out of work activity was to attend shows at the university theatre, as tickets were very cheap and there was loads on.
Placement Year (10 Months+)
21st August 2019