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Introducing FlerlageTwins.com!!


If you follow my work or that of my brother, Kevin Flerlage, you know that we’re twins!! In fact, we’re identical twins. We were born on August 2, 1976 in Covington, KY (just right across the river from Cincinnati).


If you know us today, you might question that whole identical thing because we look quite a bit different today, but as kids, we looked exactly alike. So much alike that Kevin and I can’t even tell which is which in old photos—we literally have to ask our parents!


From the day we were born, we did everything together. It was like having a built-in best friend. We were in most of the same classes in school and even attended the same college. It wasn’t until college that we started to have slightly different interests. Kevin entered college as an engineering major, while I entered with an intention to study chemistry. But neither of us was quite sure that those subjects were right for us. In our Freshman year, we both took an introduction to computer science class (we learned how to program in Turbo Pascal!!). I loved it and immediately changed my major to computer science. Kevin didn’t really care for it and continued on his engineering track (he eventually changed his major to math with a concentration on statistics).

During college, we lived together, worked part-time at the same company, hung out at the same places and with the same people. So, other than our academic interests, we still pretty much did everything together. But, in my last semester of college, I decided to study abroad. I spent about five months in early 1999 studying at Glasgow Caledonian University in Glasgow, Scotland. For me, that was a life changing experience, both because it gave me an opportunity to travel abroad and get to know a group of international students from all over the world, but also because I met an incredible woman, Kathy Steppe, who lived in Williamsport, PA. After returning home, I had a decision to make. Should I stay in the Cincinnati area or should I see if I could make this new relationship work. I decided the latter, so I packed up my things and moved 500 miles away. It worked out by the way—we’ve been married since 2001 and have two wonderful kids.


Other than my time in Scotland, Kevin and I had never lived this far apart. And, as things go, we began to live separate lives—we were no longer Kenny and Kevin, the Flerlage Twins. We began our own careers and our own families. Kevin and Amber have been married since 2004 and they also have two lovely children.


Then life began to speed up—work, family, new friends, etc.—and our lives became more and more separate. We made regular trips to visit each other and spoke on the phone once in a while, but we just weren’t as close as we had always been. The physical distance was just too great.

And our careers were quite different as well—I became a programmer and then got into a variety of areas in information technology, eventually landing in analytics near the end of 2012. Kevin worked in a number of different industries—cable television systems, ticket sales, and healthcare—but one constant was that he was always dealing with data. Over the years, he became a guru with Excel and other tools. So, while we had very different paths, both of us ended up working in data analytics. But, despite having that in common, we still didn’t talk that much. We saw each other a couple of times a year and exchanged an occasional text from time to time, but that was pretty much it.

Tableau
After a long tenure with one company, I decided to move on in 2016 and landed a job as an Analytics Architect at Bucknell University. Tableau was one of their primary business intelligence platforms and, having used similar software packages previously, I decided to learn it prior to joining the company. After doing an online training course by Matt Francis and tinkering with it for the next few months, I was hooked. I had always made fun of those programmers I knew who would spend their spare time writing programs—I just couldn’t believe people wanted to write code after doing it all day at work—but when I found Tableau, I began to do the same. I just loved that Tableau allowed me to mix my mathematical/scientific side with my creative side.

As I created different data visualizations, I started sharing them on social media. My Twitter and LinkedIn network were receptive to the work, but Facebook was another story. When I posted my recreation of John Nelson’s UFO Sightings Infographic on Facebook, no one was particularly interested other than a couple of people who decided to make some friendly jokes (including Kevin). Soon after that, I posted my viz on Swimming World Records. And, once again, some folks, including Kevin, who couldn’t resist poking fun while also tying it back to my UFO viz.


He didn’t get it at the time—he just thought I was a total data nerd (which was, of course, true). Then, a couple of months later, I posted my viz on Rhino Poaching. Kevin’s response to that one was a bit different:


He was coming around to this Tableau thing and was no longer thinking I was a nerd. I started telling him about what a cool software package it was. As kids, we were always drawing and I told him that Tableau was just like that, except it allowed you to use your mathematical brain as well—the perfect combination. Not too long after that, Kevin began hearing about Tableau at work and attended some local events. Eventually, in February, 2018, he reached out and said, “OK, I think I’m ready for you to show me this Tableau thing.” I said “Great” then proceeded to send him a link to Matt Francis’s training class. In minutes, he responded, “Wait, you’re a ‘Tableau Zen Master’ and you’re sending me to someone else for training?...How about you just show me.” I agreed, and one evening in February, I gave him a crash course on Tableau. We spent over three hours on Skype that night and I could tell that he immediately “got it”. Within weeks, he had gone all-in, creating some pretty amazing stuff right out of the gates. His first viz, Surviving Survivor, was way better than anyone’s first viz should ever be. Soon after, he got his first Viz of the Day for The African Water Crisis. Then he jumped head-first into Iron Viz, earning Top Ten finishes in two of them with The Lorax and Candy Land.

Since those early days of his Tableau career, he’s gotten a full time job as a Tableau Developer, he’s started a blog on which he teaches people how to do amazing things in Tableau, he’s mastered the software at an amazing rate, and he’s collaborated with many other people in the community. He’s become a pillar of the community—someone who is always welcoming new people, encouraging others, and willing to help. At the Tableau Conference in November, he was recognized for his efforts when he won 4 “Vizzie” awards—Best Blog, Most Technically Sound, Must Run on Coffee and Coke (he almost never drinks any caffeine BTW), and the big one, the Michael W. Cristiani Community Leadership Award.


Who’s the nerd now, Kev?? 😉

Best Friends Again
The best thing that has come of this has been the fact that Kevin and I are now best friends again—just like when we were kids. We talk every day, if not by phone, then via text or email. Tableau is, of course, the biggest topic of conversation, but we’re also much more engaged in each other’s lives and families, in a way that we haven’t since I moved away over 20 years ago. So, in a way, this shared passion for Tableau has brought us back together. How cool is that!!

The only drawback, I suppose, is that we’re now back to being confused for each other, despite the fact that we look and act quite differently. C’mon everyone…why is that? Well, I guess we are twin brothers, with very similar names, who have similar styles, and are addicted to Tableau. So, I guess we can forgive you for that. So, we figured, why not just embrace it? We’re both regularly creating good content on our blogs and it’s likely that people aren’t sure which person wrote which blog, so why are we maintaining two separate blogs—why don’t we just join forces. So, with that, we’re happy to announce our new blog, FlerlageTwins.com.


FlerlageTwins.com
So, what should you expect from flerlagetwins.com? Well, for starters, all of the content from kevinflerlage.com and kenflerlage.com has been moved. Plus, all future content will be published from our new home. Additionally, URLs from our old blogs will redirect to the new site automatically, so if you have any bookmarks, shortcuts, etc. they should all redirect you to the new site (if you run into any issues or broken links, please let us know).

Kevin and I will continue to work somewhat independently (though we do often collaborate), publishing our own blogs on a regular basis, but it’ll all be together on one single site for all of our content. We look forward to continuing to provide you with valuable content to help in your journey with data visualization and Tableau, so we hope you’ll join us!!

Ken Flerlage & Kevin Flerlage, December 20, 2019

14 comments:

  1. Gotta admit...I'm totally pumped for this, bro!

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  2. Bookmarking this awesome website :) What a cool story guys!!!

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  3. You both are really awesome.Nice initiative for you to collaborate and help the Tableau community even more.
    I too for most time in my Tableau career thought you both are the same person.

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  4. Great to hear about the new site! I loved the session at TC19, and I'm excited to see what you come up with together!

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    1. Thanks Branden! Glad you enjoyed our session. :)

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    2. Thank you Branden. Very much appreciated.

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  5. You guys are the best! I think I just missed Kevin in his days at the home office at Mercy Health. I recently got a job doing Tableau full time, and I can't wait to read all the great content you guys will continue to create as a combined Tableau superforce! What a great resource for everyone. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! You should check out the Cincy TUG. Kevin is a co leader now.

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