How Tessy Thomas Broke Barriers In The Male-Dominated Indian Space & Defense Programs

The name Tessy Thomas, affectionately known as the “Missile Woman of India”, is spoken with reverence for shattering stereotypes and defying gender norms in Space and Defence programs of India, a heavily male-dominated field.

Tessy, born in 1963 in Kerala, started to show a strong fascination towards science and technology from an early age. Her relentless determination, outstanding talent, and unwavering passion propelled her to become one of the biggest names in India’s missile development program. Her remarkable journey to become one of the most prominent figures in India’s Space and Defence sector is awe-inspiring.

Early days

Born as a girl child of a middle-class family in Alappuzha, Kerala, Tessy Thomas already had gender roles cemented. However, her curious mind and thirst for knowledge defied societal expectations and displayed an extraordinary aptitude for maths and science. Her parents, who were very proud of their daughter’s intelligence, encouraged her to pursue her passion for engineering at Thrissur Engineering College with a scholarship to boot. Her desire for knowledge thrived in that environment and soon enough, technology grabbed her attention. She dedicated herself to her studies with enthusiasm, and it led her to gain admission to the Institute of Armament Technology, Pune, for a master’s degree in the field of guided missiles.

The first step toward her dream career

Tessy Thomas became a member of the esteemed Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), a leading research institution entrusted with the development of India’s defence technology, in 1988. Initially, she was assigned to the missile laboratory, where she embarked on an extraordinary journey under the guidance of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Tessy’s excellent technical skills and commitment played a significant role in the planning and development of several revolutionary missile systems.

Through her time there, Tessy Thomas exhibited her ability in various facets of the program, contributing fundamentally to the advancements made in missile technology. Her steady devotion and expertise not only bolstered her department but also fortified India’s defence capabilities. Her invaluable contributions stood as a testament to her exceptional capabilities and cemented her position as a key asset inside the DRDO.

With each of her ventures, Tessy Thomas kept on exhibiting her passion for innovation and her unflinching commitment to strengthening the nation’s security. Her noteworthy achievements within the DRDO act as a wellspring of motivation for aspiring scientists and engineers, leaving a permanent imprint on India’s defence technology field.

Challenges in a male-dominated world

Tessy confronted various deterrents throughout her career, primarily stemming from the prevalent gender biases within the male-dominated defence department. In an environment where suspicion and doubts were often-time cast upon her performance abilities solely due to her gender, she demonstrated exceptional versatility and determination, in spite of all the challenges she had to face. Never allowing these obstructions to hinder her ambitions and aspirations, Tessy harnessed her extensive knowledge and skills to overcome these biases and gain the reverence and respect of her associates.

Tessy remained undeterred by all the scepticism thrown her way and continued to carry on her task with consistent proficiency and expertise. Through her remarkable accomplishments and resolute dedication, she destroyed the stereotypes that obstructed the progress of women in the defence sector. While her outstanding contributions have advanced the technology and capacities of missile systems, it has also become an example of the tremendous potential an individual can hold, irrespective of their gender. Her success has paved the road for the women of the future generation and inspired them to seek a career in science and technology, not paying any heed to prevailing biases.

Tessy, as a symbol of women’s empowerment and her contributions

Tessy has become an icon of empowerment and a guiding light in the fight against gender biases in any career path. In the present time, her story serves as a reminder that determination, perseverance, and diligence can conquer even the most profoundly ingrained biases. Her legacy continues to inspire people to challenge societal norms and strive for equality and inclusivity within the defence sector and beyond.

Tessy Thomas missile woman of India has made some lasting contributions to India’s missile development program, especially in the creation of the long-range ballistic missile Agni-V. This missile India’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), had the ability to launch nuclear warheads over 5,000 kilometers away. Her expertise in missile guidance systems proved to be imperative in the success of this ambitious venture. Tessy was able to demonstrate her exemplary leadership ability when she was tasked with heading the Agni-IV missile mission. This was the first time a woman was given such responsibility. Her meticulous planning, technical proficiency, and praiseworthy leadership skills guaranteed the opportune and triumphant launch of Agni-IV which greatly improved India’s strategic defence capabilities.

Following the success of the Agni-IV mission, Tessy was entrusted with the role of project director for its successor, the Agni-V mission. She led her team to a historic moment of accomplishment by successfully test-firing the missile in 2012. This achievement put India into an honourable group of nations with intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities and bolstered the nation’s defence. It not only exemplified her extraordinary abilities but also inspired generations of scientists who came after her to pursue missile technology and build a career with it.

With recognition and awards galore, Tessy is an inspiration

Tessy Thomas’s achievements did not fly under the radar and people started to notice her. Her groundbreaking accomplishments have earned her numerous accolades and recognition not only in India but also on the international stage. She received numerous esteemed accolades, including the DRDO Agni Award for Self-Reliance Excellence in 2001, the DRDO Scientist of the Year Award in 2008, and the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration, Academics, and Management in 2012, among several others.

Her remarkable journey had propelled countless young men and especially women, in India to dream big in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM). Her unwavering determination, perseverance, and passion have shattered stereotypes and proved that gender is not a barrier to success.

Tessy Thomas, aka “Agniputri”, shattered barriers in the male-dominated Indian space and defence sector. With her remarkable technical skills and leadership, she emerged as a pioneer, motivating young women to pursue careers in STEM. Her legacy serves as a strong reminder that determination and passion can defeat any hurdle, regardless of gender.

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