There is a lot to learn about Dr. Tessy Thomas, aka the Missile Woman of India. From lowly beginnings in Kerala, the self-made missile engineer ascended to success and overcame the glass ceiling that other women in her sector faced.
Often referred to as the “Agni Putri” (daughter of Agni, the god of fire), “Missile Woman” Dr. Tessy Thomas’ inspirational life story exemplifies tenacity, devotion, and overcoming barriers in a male-dominated sector. She has made important contributions to India’s ballistic missile defence program and is a well-known scientist inside the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of India.
She was recruited by DRDO, India’s equivalent of NASA, at the age of 25 to head the group’s largest missile program, Agni V, despite having only an undergraduate degree (in electronics) and a few years of experience as an intern.
Tessy Thomas was born in 1963 to Syrian parents in the Kerala municipality of Alappuzha. Mother Teresa inspired her parents to name her.
When she was just 13 years old, her father had a stroke and became paralyzed.
Her mother was a teacher who also served as the homemaker in the family while she was still at work.
Thomas continued her education at the University of Kerala in Thiruvananthapuram, where she graduated with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in communication and electronics.
But rather than pursuing a job, Thomas was more interested in creating new technology. She even turned down a job offer from her brother-in-law, the CFO of a software firm. She decided instead to pursue a PhD.
Thomas submitted an application to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1984 and was accepted as an intern. She contributed to the design of satellites and launchers while employed by ISRO.
Tessy’s enthusiasm for science and engineering intensified as she grew up. Her resolve only strengthened as a result of each difficulty she encountered. She pursued her education with a zeal that made her stand out. Despite the difficulty of the road ahead, Tessy was driven forward by her dreams.
In 1988, Tessy Thomas began working for the Defense Research and Development Service (DRDS), where she quickly rose to the top group tasked with developing India’s missile program. She was instrumental in the creation of India’s long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Agni-V, which can travel thousands of kilometres to reach its objectives. Dr. Thomas is frequently referred to as the “Missile Woman” for her leadership and contributions to the field of missile technology. She served as the project director for the Agni-IV missile.
The Agni-IV missile project director position Tessy was given marked the beginning of her success. It was a historic moment as she became the nation’s first female project manager for a missile program. Tessy exhibited unflinching resolve despite the pressure of expectations on her shoulders. Pushing the limits of what was possible, she guided her team through innumerable obstacles.
She also looked into GPS technology. She was one of the first engineers in India to create radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are used to identify millions of products around the globe.
Tessy encountered difficulties as she dug further into the domain of missiles that went beyond maths problems and calculations. Because she was a woman in a man’s world, she was received with suspicion, raised eyebrows, and even subliminal misgivings about her ability. Tessy, though, seemed unmoved by uncertainty. She used every obstacle that was placed in her path as a chance to excel.
Tessy’s journey served as a source of motivation for numerous aspiring engineers, scientists, and young people in general. Her life defied expectations and demonstrated that passion knows no bounds. She demonstrated that obstacles can be overcome and ambitions may come true with courage, perseverance, and a firm trust in oneself.
Thus, Dr. Tessy Thomas, the “Missile Woman” of India, continues to motivate others by sharing her inspiring story of bravery, tenacity, and the strength of never-ending resolve to reach for the stars, no matter how far away they may appear.