To Save Energy, Call This PEMBA Grad
Domenic Armano Helps Analyze and Reduce Energy Usage at FirstFuel
Domenic Armano (PEMBA’12) has his dream job in the field of energy efficiency at FirstFuel, a Lexington, Massachusetts-based energy analytics firm, and he attributes much of his success to his Boston University MBA experience.
Armano was running engineering services in the energy services business of the New England region at Johnson Controls (JCI) when he enrolled in the Professional Evening MBA (PEMBA) program at Boston University in 2006. (He took an 18-month leave of absence around the midpoint of his program, and then graduated in 2012.)
In PEMBA, he was a strategy concentrator and took two classes with Finance Professor Nalin Kulatilaka, Wing Tat Lee Family Professor in Management. “One was clean energy finance. The second was a directed study sponsored by JCI. Nalin was one of the people co-founding FirstFuel at the time and introduced me to Swapnil Shah, the CEO.”
When he met Shah, Armano was managing a sizable engineering team at JCI, and thus had numerous people pitching him with products and services. One of the most persistent, he says, was Shah.
“FirstFuel is a service that identifies the energy efficiency of a large portfolio of thousands of buildings really fast, which you couldn’t do before,” Armano explains. “The ‘old world’ of energy auditing involved going building to building with a clipboard. At JCI, we ended up being one of the first customers, because we saw its benefits.”
Armano says he continually provided insight into the product and how to make it better. He became such a fan, he helped FirstFuel make a sale to another company. “And then I realized: I have to join them. It’s a product I love in an industry I love. It’s a game-changing technology in terms of auditing and identifying energy efficiencies.”
In April, he came in as the tenth employee. Today, he’s director of customer solutions, where he handles the deployment of new sales as well as sale presentations. With only about 40 employees, he wears a lot of hats.
Using just building addresses and electric usage interval data (a meter reading every 15 minutes) and running it through the company’s proprietary algorithms, Armano says, “We know if a structure is heating or cooling too late in the day or if usage is more occupant-related. If it’s weather-related, it’s probably the heating and cooling/ventilation system. If it’s people-related, it’s probably lighting. We pull back layers of the onion and watch how the building responds. Once we know that, our customers can take action.”
Armano says, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this MBA.” In addition to Kulatilaka, he cites influential classes with Executive-in-Residence and Strategy & Innovation Lecturer Paul McManus, and Associate Professor and Dean’s Research Fellow Nitin Joglekar of operations & technology management, as well as numerous conversations with Managing Director of the Office of Technology Development Vinit Nijhawan. “The insights, the connections, and the mentorship from the whole team here were invaluable—I just wish I had done it sooner.”
As part of the FirstFuel leadership team, Armano says his strategy concentration directly comes into play. “It helps me assess a new market or a particular customer. I can better identify the competitive threats and opportunities. It’s changed my thinking to a more regimented focus, and helps me identify the facts that help substantiate decisions. Together that’s really helped me grow as a business leader.”
Kulatilaka says, “Dom was a significant contributor to my course even during his leave of absence from the MBA program. He developed a total of four student projects involving business issues at JCI that greatly helped the experiential learning of our MBA students. Such projects are an important part of our planned energy and environment sector specialization. He’s a great asset both to the School as an alumnus and as a member of the FirstFuel team.”