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Making a Connection: Devon Harris and OberaConnect

    For some, the word “technology” induces head-spinning and skyrocketing anxiety. It’s too confusing, everchanging, and makes us feel as helpless as a trip to the phone store. Wishing for someone who could wave a magic wand and bring a user-friendly digital vision to fruition seems like a pipe dream, but Fairhope’s Devon Harris is here to do just that. A down-to-Earth, vivacious tech leader, she’s the one we’ve all been looking for.

    Women In Business Spotlight

    Meeting for coffee after carpool at Fairhope’s Provisions, one thing’s clear: Devon Harris is on top of her game and someone we’d all like to have on speed dial. With an infectious laugh and energetic disposition, she and her equally enthusiastic sidekick, Madison Cruz, both exude that “boss babe” vibe in all things tech and motherhood. Both coincidentally dressed in hunter boots and black and white ensembles, it’s obvious that great minds think alike.

    A true entrepreneur, Devon has helped her company, OberaConnect, LLC, grow astronomically. Having worked in telecom for the last decade, Devon says when the opportunity arose to run the business, she didn’t hesitate. Juggling roles from sales and service to management, business development, and daily operations as the vice president and co-owner, Devon can be found everywhere from the trenches alongside her installers to a posh luncheon with large developers. Simply put, she wears a lot of hats.

    When it comes to leadership specifically, she doesn’t sit back. “We work together on every project as a team,” Devon says. “I lead by example and work hard to motivate, create a fun atmosphere, and build each person up to let them know what an asset they are.”

    Typically dominated by men, Devon says common misconceptions about the tech industry (and a woman’s place in it) run the gamut. “As women in the tech world, we have to prove ourselves more and work even harder,” she shares. “I respond with action and through the work we deliver. Fortunately, I’m a multitasker, an organizer, a connector of people, and a great communicator. My approach is simple: dive deep, break it down, simplify the solution, and deliver it headache-free to each client,” she asserts.

    So, what exactly does she do? “OberaConnect means connectivity simplified,” Devon details. “Our job is to assess a company and find the right solutions for its needs to make the organization run smoothly on the technology side. This includes smaller business needs like phone lines and internet connection to larger jobs where we provide services for multi-location banks, developments, retail malls, and any business that needs a wider range of services. Think anything from cable internet to fiber optic internet, phone systems, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), cloud services, TV solutions, structured cabling, security cameras, equipment, monitoring and management of core network devices, Microsoft O365, managed firewalls, servers, desktop management, and more.”

    With our heads spinning, Devon laughs and shares why potential clients shouldn’t be embarrassed about not knowing her world. “Technology is intimidating and people often shy away from it because they don’t understand it. We don’t want that!” Perhaps the best part is the fact that she proudly brings all her female capabilities to each job. Committed, she invests the necessary time to ensure clients and their teams comprehend the systems, why they’re needed, and more with patience, enthusiasm, and easy-to-digest terminology.

    Locally, many small business owners have had negative technology experiences. A hot topic for Devon, she shares, “We’re a small company, too. Living on the Eastern Shore where the presence of small businesses is such a huge part of the community, we look to support them any way we can. From providing lower costs, increasing speeds or security, improving existing services, and more, we’re all over it,” Devon assures, adding OberaConnect is in it for the long haul and prioritizes building personal relationships, not just a business.

    “We won’t even take a job until all options have been vetted and clients are completely confident in our plan,” she says. “We want that one-on-one time with our clients. For me, it’s all about that personal touch. Whether you’re a small business with minimal needs or you’re an ISP building your own network, we’re here so you can run your business, not your technology.”

    Obviously, this approach is working. “We service clients in all 50 states, with most based in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas,” Devon shares. “Our focus is to stay ahead in this rapidly changing world of technology. Every day something new and exciting is being put out there and it’s our job to find the right solution for our customers, big or small,” she says.

    A resident and true fan of Baldwin County for 20 years, Devon adds, “To be a part of the amazing growth in the Bay area is special. We’re excited for what the future holds, and we want developers to know OberaConnect is a staple in the community and that we have the right solutions to meet their growing needs. As Zig Ziglar said, ‘If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.’”

    As a wife and mother, she also aims to gracefully balance life and family like the rest of us and is grateful for her support system. While many follow the adage, “Don’t mix business with family,” Devon says apprehension of utilizing her father John Richardson’s in-depth experience in the business was never a concern. “At work, Dad’s John; outside of work, he’s Dad,” she emphasizes. “It keeps a very clear divider between our lives and as co-owners, we work extremely well together. While he doesn’t reside in this area, his knowledge, experience, mentorship, and leadership is priceless. Plus, owning my own business has always been a dream of mine, and being able to do that with my father tops the cake!”

    Adding to the support, Devon’s right-hand gal, Madison Cruz, not only further crushes the misconception that women and tech don’t mix, but she’s on board for friend duties, too. For this dynamic duo, creating new partnerships and maintaining current client relationships is standard operating procedure. “I cannot think of anyone else I’d rather do this day-to-day with,” Devon shares. “Madison is reliable, accountable, dependable, trustworthy, and gives 150 percent. I know without a doubt if she’s handling something, she’s getting it done and getting it done right! More than a colleague, she’s family, and we support each other with carpool pickups, general mom errands, and more. I wish every female entrepreneur had this,” Devon affirms. “As we grow this business, we’ll continue to push out the stereotypes and be role models for women looking to join the tech industry.”

    Originally from La Porte, Texas, Devon moved to Daphne in 2003 and graduated from the University of Mobile with a degree in leadership and cultural studies. Now married to husband Steven Harris, the couple share a son, Brian (4), whom they adopted last year. “He is the light of our lives,” Devon beams, adding Brian loves soccer, karate, swimming, and playing with the family’s two Great Danes: Rufus and Charley. “As a busy mom and business owner there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day,” Devon jokes. “It can seem impossible to do it all, so it’s important to know my limits and realize when I need to ask for help — it takes a village! My husband and son keep me going and it’s an amazing feeling knowing we’re growing this business with my family, for my family, and for our staff’s families.”

    Clearly community-minded, Devon adds that giving back is incredibly important. “We’re able to give back, better the lives of people around us, and always try to make a positive impact,” she shares, noting OberaConnect will serve as the Title Sponsor for the first annual BCH Classic golf tournament and fundraiser November 5th. “All proceeds go to the Children’s Aid Society, and there’s also a suitcase donation to support Fostering Together Gulf Coast by accepting new or slightly used suitcases for children in foster care,” Devon details.

    In her downtime, Devon loves a meal out at Sunset Pointe and Southwood Kitchen, but at the end of most days, she looks forward to a tech and device-free dinner with her family at home. Happily making it all work, she wants women to know the technology field is wonderful and full of opportunity. “Don’t be intimidated by technology,” she insists. “This industry is constantly growing and changing, and there’s a place for us all.”

    Article authored by Access Magazine