Note: This article is part of the How to win a Hackathon series.

You might choose to assemble a team before picking an idea, and that’s fine. The order isn’t important, but assembling a solid team is. I’ve had the blessing of working with my best friend since childhood, Steven Pothoven, on both of the Rumbles, as well as an excellent designer and all around great guy, Josh Hemsley.

When I first approached Steve with the idea of competing in the Rumble, I told him that we would begin planning and proceed with the goal to do it, but, that if I was unable to find a great designer to make the site look professional I would drop out and not compete. I simply would not do it without a great designer.

I spent several months trying to find one, even attending the first Front End Design Conference in Tampa Bay. I can’t remember how I ended up coming across Josh Hemsley, but am so thankful I did. We chatted online. I pitched him the idea and challenge and thankfully he accepted. With him on board, and Steve’s excellent Linux and development experience I knew we could attempt to accomplish a lot during those 48 hours.

For the Rails Rumble, the team can be up to four members, so I rounded out the team with Linda Olson, who served as tester, writer, and even produced a video for the app.

Our second time around it was again Steve and Josh on the team, but the fourth member was Sean Farrell because we needed an illustrator to knock out as many badges for Commendable Kids as possible. He produced 80 incredible looking badges.

One of the keys in putting together your team is finding complimentary skills. If you are great at Rails but not so good at setting up a Linux server, then be sure to add someone who can bring that experience and skill. If you are a back end developer without front end experience, find a front end developer to add to the team. Ideally, you’ll each bring a certain expertise to the team that you can focus on during the hackathon.

I’ve heard some pretty awful horror stories of poorly chosen team members, from members that walked out in the middle of the competition and never returned to members who were so poor or new in skill that they were more of a liability than an asset.

The biggest decision is whether winning or participating is your top priority. If you only want to do it for the fun, then you may simply pick the people you would have the most fun with. If you hope to make a strong showing, be sure you surround yourself with sufficient talent. Hopefully, you’ll be as fortunate as I was, to have both. You’ll be spending 48 hours with the team, so be sure you can stand them!