Indian history is replete with examples of charismatic women who are high achievers and ambitious. In this 21st, there have emerged some bold, self-willed, and feisty ladies who have successfully straddled the roles of a homemaker and a professional and have done it with great grace and aplomb. One such miracle name is Dr Tessy Thomas alias Agniputri and the ‘daughter of the fire.’
Tessy Thomas had always had a fierce desire to pursue a career in missile technology. With the former president Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as her role model, it is her self-motivation, unwavering commitment, and dedication to her dreams that eventually earned her the title of ‘The Missile Woman of India.’ Read more about Tessy Thomas developed which missile,what are her achievements, and how she became successful in her career.
The Childhood Of Tessy Thomas
Born in Alappuzha, Kerala, Tessy hailed from a humble family of Syrian Christian descent. As young as 13, she had witnessed her father succumbing to a life of paralysis after a massive stroke and yielding to a bedridden life, as a result of which her mother, who was a teacher, took the reins of running and taking care of the family. Tessy Thomas’s mother demonstrated great mental grit, who despite countless challenges, never let anything ever let either Tessy or her other five siblings compromise their studies and ambitions.
Tessy Thomas was a student of St. Michaels Higher Secondary School and later St. Joseph’s Girls Higher Secondary School. She soon began to fetch the attention of her teachers as a mathematics and science genius, scoring 100 percent and 95 percent respectively. Her ability and proficiency in solving mathematical riddles and comprehending challenging complexities in science paired with her noticeable inclination towards scientific research, principally in the realm of physics were paramount and hard to miss.
Also, it could not have been a coincidence but perhaps a divine intervention that she was growing up near the Thumba Rocket Launching Station. It impacted and awakened imagination and curiosity in her and planted the seed of passion for the world of missiles and rockets. Having amassed the much-needed financial support from bank loans and scholarships, Tessy eventually enrolled herself for an engineering degree. Subsequent to it, she pursued an M. Tech degree from the Institute of Armament Technology in Pune, and then went ahead to fetch an MBA degree in Operation Management. She pursued and completed her doctorate in guidance missiles.
Tessy Thomas’s first tryst with scientific research evolved in the year 1984 when she commenced working as an intern at the Indian Space Research Organization on satellites and the development of launch vehicles. After spending two years, she joined DRDO in 1986 where she unrelentingly worked designing satellites and launch vehicles and expanded her expertise and explored career opportunities further. She went on to work on GPS technology joining ranks with the first line of Indian engineers who were then building RFID tags.
Her moment of glory came when she was asked to be a part of an epic moment in the history of space research programmes in the country. Her idol, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, selected her to work on the ambitious ‘Agni missile’ programme. Appointed and successfully led the missions as the project director for Agni IV and the associate project director for Agni III, she was again put in charge of the Agni V mission in the year 2009. After successful testing, there was no looking back for this ‘daughter of the fire.’ In the year 2018, Tessy helmed the Aeronautical Systems of DRDO as the Director General.
Despite such repute, success, and honor, her humility and down-to-earth nature touched and appealed to everyone. She had shattered the glass ceiling and demolished the male bastion by emerging as the first woman scientist from India to lead such an ambitious space project. Her humility lies in the fact that despite her achievements and public adulation, she never wanted to accept her identity as the Missile Woman of India and only wants to be known and remembered as a woman who works on missiles. She was the recipient of one of the highest civilian honors, the Padmashree award, by the government of India. She received the ISRO Team Award and National Technology Award. She was also conferred with the NASA Group Achievement Award. For her monumental contribution to building the future of space science and technology in India, the Junior Chamber International conferred the Young Women Achievers Award.
It is true that Tessy Thomas crossed several milestones in her career, but it is also true that her journey was not all rosy and a cakewalk. She exemplifies the proverbial expression that failures are the stepping stones to success. She had to encounter multiple letdowns at different phases of her career path as a scientist. In the year 2006, being in charge of designing a missile, she had to witness performance failures for which her entire team had to face a backlash. But she never took a defeat to heart and instead worked harder and relentlessly. It was with her tremendous zeal proving her grit that she accomplished the project within the next 10 months and the result was another monumental success.
That Tessy Thomas is one of the leading names in the field of ballistic missiles would be an understatement. She is one of the most inspiring personalities in India who paved the path for the young women of India illustrating courage and self-belief to break through gender stereotypes and outshine everyone.