MechE Student Kirti Saxena Balances Tesla Internship and Team Canada Competitions

Competitive wrestler and MIE student, Kirti Saxena (MechE 2T4 + PEY) adds a spot as an alternate for the Paris 2024 Olympic Team to her impressive competitive sports accomplishments. The road to the Olympic Trials took additional perseverance and determination as the Varsity Blues and Team Canada athlete recovered from her second knee surgery while managing an internship with Tesla at the Gigafactory in Austin, Texas.

Recent participation in the Canadian Senior National Championship was halted due to illness, but Saxena pushes forward with the Non-Olympic World Team Trials this month. Saxena shares with MIE what drives her successes in competition, her studies, and internship.

Kirti Saxena (middle) in a wrestling game.


1) How did you balance training and working for Tesla?

My managers were aware of my training and competition schedules and that I would be able to balance athletics and work. I manage all priority work before leaving for competitions and I am part of a team that is supportive and encouraging toward my athletics. I start each day at 5:30-6:00 am, do an early morning gym session, head into the Gigafactory, and begin wrestling practice after work. A typical day ends at around 8:00 pm. Weekend workouts include something other than wrestling or strength and conditioning to add variety. Recently it’s been a mix of bouldering, soccer, and volleyball. Sundays tend to be my rest, reset, and meal prep days.

Kirti Saxena at the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin, Texas.

2) How was preparing for the Olympic Trials different from your other competitions?

Recovering from knee surgery, I was not at peak physical condition going into the Trials and I had to shift my mindset. I have always envisioned nothing less than winning and that remained but recognizing that I was still in recovery, I included tolerance towards my circumstances as I competed. The goal going into the Olympic Trials was to wrestle well and prove that I was on my way back from injury while transitioning into being a major competitor.

3) When did you have your knee surgery and what was the impact on your training and studies?

Surgery was right before final exams in the winter semester of 2023 and it has taken over a year to recover. My mindset toward my academics also shifted while navigating the physical and mental challenges that come with recovery. Not being able to do normal daily tasks affected my routines, study habits, and lifestyle greatly. I trained insanely hard for a month to be able to get back to a point to take my exams that semester. And even harder to get my body ready for physical impact.


4) Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I’m the youngest from a big family and have a number of role models. I would say that right now my biggest inspiration is my sister Rachna. Being a former wrestler and current coach, she represented women of color on the Wrestling Canada board while balancing a full-time job and starting a family.

When you ask me how I balance multiple priorities and work toward exceeding expectations, I am reminded of people, my sister being one of them, who consistently achieve even more. Rachna takes on challenges, listens to all points of view, and acts in a manner to benefit everyone. She is confident and greatly respected within her work environment and the wrestling community. She is also someone who has always supported and believed in me, even with our ten-year difference. I am inspired by my sister’s career path and aim to follow in the same direction.

Kirti Saxena (right) in a wrestling game.

5) What have you enjoyed the most about your Tesla internship?

Working at Tesla in the Gigafactory has been an unreal experience. The bounds of technology are endless. I appreciate the amount of responsibility allocated to interns as it provides the opportunity to take ownership of tasks and I have learned many skills in my areas of interest. My manager, and mentor, Drupadh gives me projects that he knows I will enjoy and learn from. He makes time for me regularly within his busy schedule, makes sure that my work is high-quality, and guides me through any problems. I appreciate his approach of letting me take the reins on projects so I can navigate issues and learn through my mistakes, while he is always available when needed.

-Published on May 7, 2024, by Kendra Hunter

© 2024 Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering