It is truly inspiring to see women breaking boundaries and shattering the glass ceiling to move forward and achieve life goals. Women have had to struggle even to achieve their fundamental rights through the ages. And today, when we look at their achievements and the progress that women as a community have made, it inspires awe. Let us talk about one such ambitious woman who defied all odds and reached the pinnacle of success, inspiring us to believe in ourselves and the possibility to turn our dreams into reality. Let us talk about the rise of Tessy Thomas.
Tessy Thomas, also known as ‘The Missile Lady of India,’ is the first woman to lead a missile project named Agni V. With her unparalleled success, she lights the path for millions of young girls to become high achievers in their chosen path. Thomas is the epitome of willpower and determination, and she has proven that with perseverance and hard work, it is not impossible to fulfil any dream.
A Humble Beginning
Named after Mother Teresa, Tessy Thomas was born to a humble family in Kerala in 1963. Growing up near the stunning lush green and magnificent backwater of Alappuzha, she did not have an easy childhood. When she was a child, as young as a 13-year-old, her father survived a stroke and became paralyzed. Tessy’s mother juggled her career and home to keep the family going. But her zeal to do something extraordinary and pursue her dream till it materialized kept her going even in the face of adversity. Today, she has illustrated that every woman in our country can make anything possible with sheer determination and unwavering focus.
An Impeccable Educational Journey
Needless to say, she was a remarkable student all her life with incredible achievements under her belt. After acquiring her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electronics and communication from the University of Thiruvananthapuram, she refused to do a 9 to 5 job. Her keen interest in developing new technologies led her to pursue a PhD.
The widespread notion that the only way to achieve something big in life is by studying abroad turns into hogwash when we look at her success story. Tessy Thomas has epitomized the ultimate benefits of the Indian education system. It shows that you don’t need foreign degrees from fancy colleges to establish yourself.
Her uninhibited spirit was always ready to face new challenges, and it is with this go-getter attitude that she refused to take up a job offered by his brother-in-law who was the CFO of a software company.
An Outstanding Career Graph
Very few can reach the peak of their career as Tessy Thomas did. When it comes to a woman, hardships are doubled and troubles get multiplied. It was not easy for Tessy to prove her mettle in a male-dominant field, but ultimately, she did break down the myth that science is not for women. A glorious career spanning over three decades with multiple accomplishments has truly made her an inspiration to millions of young girls who want to pursue science.
Starting her journey as a scientist at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), she went on to serve as the Director of the Physical Research Laboratory. After spending two years at ISRO, Thomas entered the Defense Research Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1986. Soon she was appointed as Advisor to the Defense Minister to pursue missile programs. At DRDO, Tomas reached the heights of her career as she was declared the head of the Agni missile program, which could carry nuclear warheads. Before that, she had already worked on multiple projects, developed a range of missiles, and launched vehicles for the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force.
A soul like her never stopped at one thing. Apart from designing missiles and rockets, her contribution to researching GPS technologies is remarkable. She was one of the first engineers in India to develop a technology for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags which are today used worldwide as identification tags for millions of products. Tessy Thomas has established an innovative approach towards technology and inspired millions to build careers in the field of science and technology. She has marked herself as an incredible manager by handling and coordinating a team of 150 engineers at ISRO to managing thousands at DRDO.
Breaking The Stereotypes
It is unfair to denote her only as a scientist or an engineer as she is a trailblazer for women in technology. Gender bias is prevalent in every sector. But when it comes to science and technology, women are always barred from entering the sanctity. Thomas has shown us how talent overshadows any boundary.
She was the first woman from the Indian Aeronautical Society’s Space Pioneers Hall Of Fame 2014. Only five other Indians were felicitated with this honour before her, making it an even more important milestone in her career.
In her acceptance speech at the award ceremony, she pointed out that nothing is impossible with courage and determination. She even admitted that she never thought less of herself as a woman. She always felt that women can make the impossible possible with their determination. However, they indeed need better opportunities and tremendous encouragement from their families and society at large.
Tessy Thomas dedicated her heart and soul to developing the Agni missile and making it a success. She embodies success and self-belief. If you are aspiring to become the next Tessy Thomas, you must shed the preconceived notions that society associates with the female identity. You must discount the patriarchal beliefs promoting that women can’t do certain things while men can. It all depends on opportunities and self-belief. If you can’t find an opportunity, build one as Tessy did and fulfil your dream.