When most kids dream about their futures, they have broad fantasies of going to space or becoming famous pop stars. Nick Pappianou’s childhood dreams, on the other hand, were decidedly more specific.

“I wanted to become a mechanical engineer to improve the Shelby race car,” Nick said matter-of-factly, referring the iconic 1967 Mustang Shelby GT500 that races across the quarter mile in around 13 seconds — a feat for that era.

After a few years studying engineering, Nick says he began adjusting his dreams a little — accepting that most mechanical engineers don’t actually spend all their time working on race cars.

Now 25 and a member of Polar Bottle’s engineering department, Nick spends his days not making race cars faster, but making water bottles better. While his childhood fantasies did not pan out exactly as he expected, he says he is doing the type of work he was meant to be doing.

“Problem solving is what I do,” Nick said of mechanical engineering. His work testing and designing products at Polar Bottle, he says “It’s all just a solution to a problem.”

Originally from Chester, New Jersey, Nick moved to Colorado in 2005 to attend the University of Colorado, which he chose because of its renowned engineering department and proximity to the mountains where Nick loves to snowboard. After graduating in August of 2009 he applied for a position in the Polar Bottle engineering department.

He didn’t get the job.

“It was between me and another guy,” Nick said. “They went with the other guy.”

A few months later, still unemployed, Nick was packing to return home to New Jersey when he got a call from Polar Bottle Vice President Robert Heiberger asking him to come in for another interview. He was hired on the spot.

Though it has nothing to do with race cars, Nick says Polar Bottle has been the perfect fit for a young engineer.

Because it is a smaller company, for example, Nick says he gets the opportunity to gain experience in a wider range of areas than he might at a different job.

On a typical day, Nick says he might participate in everything from product testing and development to designing new bottle lines.

“It’s hard for me to imagine what I would be doing at a larger company,” Nick said. “I certainly would not have this much say in the design process.”

As an outdoor enthusiast, Nick says working at Polar Bottle has also helped him honor his commitment to environmental conservation.

“Encouraging people to use reusable water bottles is an important part of the sustainability movement,” Nick said.

His favorite part about working at Polar Bottle, however, is the people he works with.

“We have such a wide mix of nationalities and perspectives,” Nick said, explaining that he appreciates how diverse the Polar Bottle crew is, with employees ranging in ages and hailing from everywhere from Montenegro to Senegal.

In the coming years, Nick says he hopes to just take in as much as he can at his first real engineering job.

“Robert is such a veteran in the field,” Nick said of the Polar Bottle Vice President who oversees the entire engineering department. “I hope I can just continue to learn the tricks of the trade from him.”