Tessy Thomas (born April 1963) is an Indian scientist and Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for Agni-IV missile in Defence Research and Development Organisation. She is the first ever woman scientist to head a missile project in India.
Tessy Thomas was born in April 1963 in Alappuzha, Kerala, to a Syrian Christian family. She was named after Mother Teresa (Tessy being a derivative of Teresa or Tressia). There is conflicting information on whether her father was an IFS officer or a small-time businessman or an accountant. When Thomas was 13 her father suffered from a stroke which left his right side paralyzed. Her mother who was a teacher remained a home maker to look after the family in such dire condition.
She grew up near Thumba Rocket Launching Station and says her fascination with rockets and missiles began then. She was stimulated even by the wonderment of aircraft flying.
Thomas has four other sisters and one brother. She has mentioned in interviews about her parents ensuring their children received proper education and encouraging the six siblings to pursue careers of their own interest so that they can excel. Two of her siblings are engineers while another pursued a MBA.
Thomas credited her home town and mother for her personal development. “I grew up with the pretty backwaters of Kerala as my backyard. I guess nature gives you strength and good thoughts. The power of nature cannot be undermined in one’s development.” Of her mother she has said, “It must have been tough for my mother — who was not allowed to work — to look after us on her own. Yet she made sure each of her five daughters and one son had a good education…. I’ve inherited her strong will for sure. I am equally persevering and determined like my mother.”
Tessy Thomas studied in St. Michael’s Higher Secondary School and St. Joseph’s Girl’s Higher Secondary School in Alleppey (Alappzuha). She had a natural flair for mathematics and physics. She scored one hundred percent in mathematics during her 11th and 12th years in school. In the same years she had also scored more than ninety five percent in science.
She took an education loan of Rs. 100 per month from State Bank of India to study engineering from Government Engineering College, Thrissur. She also received a scholarship that covered her tuition fees having been entered into the first ten students of the merit list during her admissions. The loan gave her the courage to live in a hostel while pursuing her B. Tech.
In both school and college Thomas was involved in extracurricular activities including political issues. She excelled in sports especially badminton bringing much recognition to her alma maters.
She also has an M.Tech in Guided Missile from the Institute of Armament Technology, Pune (now known as the Defence Institute of Advanced Technology). She also pursued MBA in Operations Management and Ph.D. in guidance missile under DRDO.
Tessy Thomas joined DRDO in 1988, where she worked on the design and development of the new generation ballistic missile, Agni. She was appointed by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam for the Agni Project. In addition, Tessy was the associate project director of the 3,000 km range Agni-III missile project. She was the project director for mission Agni IV which was successfully tested in 2011. Later, Tessy was appointed as the project director of the 5,000 km range Agni-V in 2009, which was successfully tested on 19 April 2012. In 2018, she became the Director-General, Aeronautical Systems of DRDO
She is a fellow in various universities such as the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), Institution of Engineers-India (IEI) and Tata Administrative Service (TAS)
She is married to Saroj Kumar, a commander in the Indian Navy and they have a son, Tejas.
She was also the recipient of the Dr Thomas Cangan Leadership Award at the Faculty of Management Studies – Institute of Rural Management, Jaipur (FMS-IRM) in 2018.