Ray Allen was born and raised in Milwaukee and moved to Madison in 1969 to attend college at the University of Wisconsin, from which he earned a degree in Journalism. Upon graduation, he went to work for the John Deere Company as a marketing representative.
He joined state government in 1987, when he was appointed to serve in the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations. Allen later was appointed Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Department of Employment Relations, where he supervised the Division of Affirmative Action, the State Employee Assistance Program, and the state's Total Quality Management Training Program. He also served as the Director of the State Office of Employee Development and Training.
During the administration of former Governor Scott McCallum, Allen served as Executive Director of the Technology for Education Board, a state agency that administered financial assistance to Wisconsin's educational institutions to aide in the installation of educational technology. Beginning in 1996, he has served at the Department of Financial Institutions, including four years as Deputy Secretary. On January 21, 2016, he was appointed Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Allen has been active in the Madison area community, serving on many community boards and commissions. He was elected to three terms on the Madison School Board, serving from 1995 to 2004. Allen is the former publisher and owner of The Madison Times, a weekly newspaper. He is a partner and Vice President of Madtown Paradies, which operates retail stores in Dane County's Regional Airport.