There’s a lot to know about India’s Missile Woman, Dr. Tessy Thomas. The self-made missile engineer rose from humble beginnings in Kerala and managed to shatter the glass ceiling that plagued other women in her field. With only an undergraduate degree and a couple of years as an intern under her belt, she was handpicked by DRDO — India’s equivalent to NASA — at the age of 25 to lead the organization’s largest missile program: Agni V, a missile that is capable of striking any deep spot inside China with a precision, better known in missile technology (with less than 0.0001 percent ambiguity). Agni-5 the intercontinental ballistic missile is capable of taking a nuclear head deep into any spot of it’s choice inside China a weapon that is capable of making the Chinese think twice before they embark on any adventure with in any Indian territory. She is also the Chief Scientist and Director of Defense Research Development Organization, under the Defence Ministry, Govt of India.
She was born in Alappuzha District of Kerala as the daughter of Taiparambil Thomas and his wife Kunjamma in 1963 Her initial schooling happened in St Joseph’s S. Her first Engineering Degree B Tech was from Trissur Govt Engineering College. Then she went on to take her MTech from Defense Institute of Advance Studies from Pune Maharashtra. She joined Defense Research Development Organization ( DRDO)in 1988.
Her career spans over three decades and has taken her from being a scientist at Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to serving as the Director of Physical Research Laboratory until 2012 when she was appointed as Advisor to Defense Minister to pursue missile programs. After spending two years at ISRO, Thomas joined Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) — India’s equivalent to NASA — in 1986. There she consulted on the Agni Missile program which could carry nuclear warheads. While at DRDO, she helped to design a range of missiles and launch vehicles for the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force. Of course, Thomas didn’t just design rockets. She also researched GPS technologies.
She was one of the first engineers in India to develop technology for radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags which were used throughout the world as identification tags for millions of products. And because her expertise was in electronics, she expanded her portfolio with communications technologies such as infrared communication devices used by aircraft and satellites. Not only did Thomas innovate new technologies but she was also an effective manager. In her first job at ISRO, she coordinated and managed a team of 150 engineers and in her tenure at DRDO, she managed teams of thousands.
Dr Tessy Thomas was not only a multi-talented engineer but also a trailblazer for women in technology. In 2014, Thomas became the first woman to be inducted into the Aeronautical Society’s Space Pioneer Hall of Fame — an honour that has been given to only five other Indians before her. While accepting the award, she was reported saying, ‘I am happy to be associated with people who have done significant work in space technology from India. I never had any negative thoughts about being a woman. I always thought that being a woman, I can do this job as well. But having said that, it is not just a job. It was very important for me to have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this work.’ Dr Tessy Thomas apart from being known as the missile woman of India is also known for her bravery, courage, patriotism, and loyalty in service to her country and her society in general.